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Archive for the ‘Picture Book Writing Courses’ Category

978-0981493800So far, this year, I’ve been taking a break and being kind to myself. Meanwhile, the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team members have been doing their own thing. I believe that in the future I will be offering periodic guest posts from wise authors and/or illustrators, so keep an eye out. Before I move on to talking about picture book structures, I want to mention that my book BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA is featured in the summer reading section of the recent County Line Magazine. There are a couple cool things about this nice surprise. First, they put me in the great company of two other Texas authors Rosie Pova and Jen Betton. Rosie’s book SUNDAY RAIN (illustrated by Amariah Rauscher) is featured and author/illustrator Jen Betton’s cute book HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG is featured. The other thing that surprised me about BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA is that out of all my books, they picked the one that has been around the longest. What I love about this is the fact that my first picture book has had such a long life. I believe it may be the top seller of all my books, even after all these years.

The message that I want to leave with you is that some books do have long lives. One never really knows what the future will bring for our precious babies. You can see the magazine feature here.

Sunday RainHedgehog needs a hug

Now I will move on to picture book structures.

PICTURE BOOK STRUCTURES

A few months back, someone inquired about my course ART OF ARC, asking if it covers the many different picture book structures. The answer is yes, but not extensively. There is certainly enough information and lists of mentor texts to get one very familiar with books that don’t fall into the traditional story structure. This is not to say that many of the different structures don’t still have an arc of some sort. Anyway, after that inquiry, I decided it might be nice if I could share a little bit about the various structures with you. The best and wisest way to do that is to share what others have already created. So here is a list of links where you can learn all about picture book structures.

Enjoy!

2016 ReFoReMo Day 5: TAMMI SAUER MODELS HOW-TO DO THE STRUCTURE STRUT (ReFoReMo is now March on with Mentor Texts)

http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/reforemo/reforemo-day-5-tammi-sauer-models-how-to-do-the-structure-strut

2012 PiBoIdMo Day 7: EVERY DAY TAMMI SAUER IS STRUCTURIN’ (PiBoIdMo is now Storystorm)

https://taralazar.com/2012/11/07/piboidmo-day-7-tammi-sauer/

2014 PiBoIdMo Day 11: TAMMI SAUER’S HOW TO “HOW TO”

https://taralazar.com/2014/11/11/piboidmo-day-11-tammi-sauer/

2021 Picture Book Builders PICK AND COMMIT: CHOOSING A PICTURE BOOK STRUCTURE by Pat Zietlow Miller

https://picturebookbuilders.com/2021/08/pick-and-commit-choosing-a-picture-book-structure/

2020 Writer Magazine: HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR PICTURE BOOKS FOR SUCCESS by Ryan G. Van Cleave

These tried-and-true structures can provide a blueprint for your picture book plot.

https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/writing-for-young-readers/structure-your-picture-books/

2020 Writer’s Digest: 7 WAYS TO STRUCTURE YOUR PICTURE BOOK by Brian A. Klems

https://www.writersdigest.com/improve-my-writing/7-ways-to-structure-your-picture-book

Reading Rockets: STORY SKELETONS: TEACHING PLOT STRUCTURE WITH PICTURE BOOKS by Shutta Crum

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/story-skeletons-teaching-plot-structure-picture-books

Ms. Rosen Reads:  PICTURE BOOK PATTERNS (an extensive list of mentor texts for a variety of picture book structures)

https://msrosenreads.edublogs.org/read/picture-book-studies/picture-book-patterns/

2018 Mentor’s for Rent: HOW TO WRITE A NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK: STEP 6: STRUCTURE IT by Laura Purdie Salas

https://mentorsforrent.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/how-to-write-a-nonfiction-picture-book-step-6-structure-it/

Florida Writers Association: WRITING THE WORDLESS, OR ALMOST WORDLESS, PICTURE BOOK  by Shutta Crum

https://floridawriters.blog/writing-the-wordless-or-almost-wordless-picture-book/

2012 Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating: WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS

https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/wordless-picture-books/

LINDA ASHMAN SHARES HER MANUSCRIPT FOR HER NEARLY WORDLESS PICTURE BOOK “RAIN”

An excellent demonstration of formatting a manuscript for a wordless or nearly wordless picture book.

https://lindaashman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RAIN_Submission.pdf

I hope some of this information helps you with possibly finding a new and interesting path for some of your picture book ideas.

If you missed the “Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom” posts, you can find them all here. Together, these posts are a free course in kid-lit writing.

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Untold stories will remain untold if we can only tell those with a complete historical record. (1)

A big thank you to Beth Anderson for sharing her wisdom with us. In this fabulous guest post, she walks us through how she found the theme and heart in two of her true-story picture books.

REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT (Illustrated by Susan Reagan 2/1/22) and FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE (Illustrated by Caroline Hamel 5/3/22)

prudence and franz together

WRITING TRUE STORIES WITH THEME AND HEART

by Beth Anderson

One of the topics that Alayne wanted to explore on her blog is theme, the big universal ideas we find in stories. When I explore a person or event for a potential story, I look for themes that kids can relate to—themes are “connect-ers.” As I write, more emerge, and I need to choose my focus. For me, themes are the easy part. But it’s the “heart”—that golden nugget I’m after—that’s the hard part. It’s a unique angle, frame, or lens that filters the story through me to find special meaning. That’s the piece that will make my story different than someone else’s and resonate at the end for the reader.

With REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT (2/1/22) and FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE (5/3/22), important themes naturally sprang from the stories as I researched. But with both, I had a problem. Limited information. And then the decision—do I abandon the story because I can’t verify or obtain all the details I need? This decision really rests on the potential “heart”—the thread that makes the story matter.

I discovered so much goodness with theme and character in both stories that I didn’t want to let them go. Untold stories will remain untold if we can only tell those with a complete historical record. I believe the heart is the vital part of any narrative, whether purely nonfiction or not. So if I can find a heart that rises above any missing details, I go after it and let the story be historical fiction. For me, what matters most is the story.

In REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT, I found a number of minor themes, but the most prominent theme is that of gender equality. You see it set up in the epigraph, before the story even starts.

These are the times that try men’s [and women’s] souls.”  – Thomas Paine

intro quote

That theme appears in the opening spread with Prudence as a child, expands when the women resist British rule with boycotts as weapons, and is reinforced by the women taking on the men’s work when they march off to Concord. Gender equality is also reflected in choices Susan Reagan, the illustrator, made. An early spread shows the men voting at the town meeting with a chorus of “Ayes,” and later, when Prudence rallies the women, we see their chorus of “Ayes.”

quilt min women

Though that theme is strong, it’s not the heart. My path to the heart started with examining “choices.” As I narrowed that idea, it moved toward rising above roles and breaking traditions to see possibility and one’s own capableness and agency. Personal independence requires throwing off confining expectations imposed by society—self-determination. I realized the most important take away from her story is, literally, the power of her story, a microcosm of the larger one of gaining independence. I’d seen that her story continues to inspire people today, despite the missing proofs. While passing down Prudence’s lantern makes me say “wow!” and contributes to the reality of her as a real person, it’s her story that makes that artifact significant and her story that carries forward her conviction and courage to empower others.

One look at the cover of FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE tells you it’s a very different story than PRUDENCE’s. But actually, it’s another story that deals with seeing possibility. My immediate connection to Franz Gsellmann’s story was that I was also a child who loved to “tinker, putter, and build.” I wanted to see inside objects, create, and figure out how things worked. To this day, I can’t help but ask, “What’s going on in there?”—the question that echoes through the book.

The twin themes that carry FRANZ’S story are joy in creativity and the power of curiosity and wonder. Clearly, I love epigraphs, because this book has one, too, setting up theme.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”  -Albert Einstein

Screen Shot 2022-02-11 at 3.46.22 PM

FRANZ was one of my early stories on this writing journey, and I hadn’t learned about the importance of finding the unique heart, vital idea, so what?, or take-away when I started it. But somehow, a heart idea was lurking in my mind all along. I revised this story over several years as I learned more about craft. The heart thread emerged as a question, so appropriate for a story about curiosity.

In FRANZ’S story, I was fascinated by the intersection of science/technology and art. As all sorts of questions popped in my head, the heart of the story, the driving question, took shape. While I don’t want to provide any spoilers, I’ll share this much: Does a machine have to produce a physical object? Is the value of an effort or idea in fulfilling expectations?

PastedGraphic-3

While themes are universals, the heart is personal. It’s the job of the writer to select one or two themes, and then to define and support them with word choices, imagery, and focus. Theme is not the same as “heart,” but the two ideas are connected. Each enhances the other. I see theme as up front and out there, and heart as more stealthy, blossoming at the end.

My first choice is to bring heart to a strictly nonfiction story. But if I can’t have both, I’ll let the uncertainty of a few details be explained in back matter and go for the heart. In my experience as a reader and a writer, all the verifiable details in the world can’t make up for a story without heart.

Beth Anderson hi res squareBeth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE (10/2021), “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. Beth has more historical gems on the way. Learn more about Beth at bethandersonwriter.com Signed copies of Beth’s books can be found here.

 

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and the winner is!

Congratulations to giveaway winner Angel Gantnier! She has chosen complimentary enrollment in my picture book writing course Art of Arc.

From the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team to you and yours . . . 

and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2022!

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Beth Anderson

The last “wisdom” post for 2021 has been posted. But I’m excited to share that most of the team will be returning to share more wisdom in 2022. If you’ve been following us from the beginning, you know that we have already shared a wealth of wisdom and a treasure trove of tips. If you have read (or you do read) all the posts, you will see that combined, they amount to a full course in picture writing, and then some. I want to offer my gratitude to all the generous authors who contributed to this collection of wisdom posts. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! And I want to thank you, our blog readers, for taking time to follow us and sometimes give us lovely comments that let us know our work is all worthwhile. It means a lot.

In return for our wise authors’ generosity, I hope you will consider supporting them and me by spreading the word about our books and services, buying the books (great Christmas gifts), and sharing our posts. And then, the ultimate gift to an author is always reviews. Please, if you’ve read our books, post reviews. Following is a list of our team members linked to our websites so you can learn more about our books and services. Following the list you will find just a sampling of our many books. I believe most of us have many more that aren’t shared in this post.

In the spirit of giving and to honor the message of THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS, I’ve decided to offer a holiday gift to one lucky winner of my giveaway drawing. Following our three collages of our books, you will find the information about the giveaway. And then, finally, you will find links to all of our posts at the end of this post.

Beth Anderson
Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Kirsti Call
Pippa Chorley
Alayne Kay Christian
Laura Gehl
Vivian Kirkfield
Ellen Leventhal
Michelle Nott
Rosie Pova
Dawn Babb Prochovnic
Rob Sanders
Melissa Stoller

Untitled design (3)

Untitled design (4)

Than

GIVEAWAY!

Enter for a chance to win your choice of

Complimentary enrollment in Art of Arc

Complimentary access to my webinars

A thirty-minute first impressions critique Zoom call with Alayne

A copy of any one of Alayne’s books (In U.S. only. I can offer a PDF otherwise.)

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLDEDO CHRISTMAS WEED

An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Cowboy Trouble

Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Trying to Make It Rain

HOW TO ENTER

  • Follow my blog.
  • Share any one of our wisdom posts on social media.
  • Comment on this post telling us that you have followed and shared and that you want to be included in the drawing.
  • The deadline to enter is December 17th, and the winner will be announced on December 18. Unfortunately, any book giveaway won’t arrive before Christmas.

In case you missed the news . . .

Analyze with Alayne 3 11 wk course

FOLLOWING ARE THE LINKS TO OTHER KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM POSTS

WRITING SATISFYING AND EFFECTIVE ENDINGS (part 1, part 2, part 3, bonus post 1, bonus post two)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 1 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 2 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 3 of 3) 

HOW WRITE OUTSTANDING FIRST LINES AND BEGINNINGS (part1part 2part 3)

WHY KID-LIT WRITERS SHOULD READ MENTOR TEXTS AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING THEM PART ONE and PART TWO

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY PART ONE and PART TWO

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION DOESN’T (USUALLY) HAPPEN OVERNIGHT PART ONEPART TWO, and PART THREE

INTRODUCING THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM

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Analyze with Alayne 3 11 wk course

CURRENTLY, THIS COURSE IS ONLY INTENDED FOR PICTURE BOOK FICTION, WRITTEN IN CLASSIC STORYTELLING STRUCTURE, WRITTEN IN PROSE, AND NO LONGER THAN 800 WORDS. Note: if 800 words, I may encourage you to cut words and tighten the story to get it closer to 500 words. If you are in doubt about the story you want to work on, I’d be happy to look at the manuscript you have in mind for the course before you sign up.

You will receive

  • The Art of Arc course
  • All Alayne’s videos and webinars
  • Weekly to biweekly zoom recordings with Alayne’s feedback for your story and your classmates’ stories
  • Feedback from your classmates via a private Facebook group

Our analysis and your revisions will be based on the classic story/character arc structure. Though the course has much good material for you to read and consider on your own, our focus will be writing the beginning, middle, and ending. We will also cover some of the most common problems I see in manuscripts that I read or critique.

SUMMARY OF COURSE STRUCTURE AND SCHEDULE

Following is a short summary of how the course will be structured and scheduled. It will not be necessary for you to be available for live meetings, but you will need to get your assignments in on time. Detailed instructions will be supplied with the course materials. Schedule may vary slightly in unexpected circumstances.

Week One

  • You will read lesson eight (Showing vs Telling)
  • and read the first portion of lesson 10 (Other Common Issues)
  • You will do homework.

Week Two

  • You will read lessons one (Beginnings and Endings)
  • and read lesson two (After the Hook)
  • You will do the homework.
  • You will read supplemental blog posts and watch a webinar

Week Three

  • You will polish the beginning of your manuscript and submit it to Alayne by Friday

Week Four

  • You will read lesson three (Story (Plot) Structure Overview)
  • and read lesson four (Cause and Effect)
  • and read lesson five (Episodic Stories)
  • You will do the homework and watch some videos
  • A video (or link) with a Alayne’s feedback for week three (your beginning) will be sent to your email by Sunday

Week Five

  • You will read lesson six (The Middle – First, Second, and Third Attempts to Solve Problem) and do the homework
  • You will read additional supplemental blog posts and watch a webinar

Week Six

  • You will polish your manuscript’s middle
  • You will revise your beginning
  • and submit the work to Alayne by Friday

Week Seven

  • You will read lesson seven (Darkest Moment, Climax, and Ending) and do homework
  • You will read additional supplemental blog post, and possibly watch a webinar.
  • A video (or link) with Alayne’s feedback for week six (your revised beginning and polished middle) will be sent to your email by Sunday

Week Eight

  • You will polish your manuscript ending
  • You will revise your beginning and middle
  • and submit work to Alayne by Friday

Week Nine

  • You get a breather
  • A video (or link) with Alayne’s feedback for week eight will be sent to your email by Sunday

Week Ten

  • You will do a final polish of your full manuscript
  • and submit it to Alayne by Friday

Week Eleven

  • You will receive your final feedback recording from Alayne by Sunday
  • Alayne will be available via the private Facebook group to answer final questions until the following Sunday

Click the links to learn more about Art of Arc, Alayne’s critiques, and Alayne’s webinars.

Alayne’s bio:

Alayne Kay Christian is a multi-award-winning children’s book author and the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. She is the former acquisitions editor and art director for Blue Whale Press. In addition, she shares her knowledge with writers through free and affordable webinars at Writing for Children Webinars. She has been a picture book and chapter book critique professional since 2014, and she worked as a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Alayne spent fifteen years studying under some of the top names in children’s literature. Her published works include the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series, and picture books–

BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN: HOW DINDIM MADE JOÃO PEREIRA DE SOUZA AN HONORARY PENGUIN

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED

Alayne’s fourth picture book, FAITH BENEATH THE BRIDGE is planned for release in the fall of 2022. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing and book designs share her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart.

A COURSE AND CRITIQUE IN ONE FOR ONLY $155.00!

Enrollment will be open until December 17. Classes will begin January 10, 2022. 

If you already have the Art of Arc course, your cost will be $100.

If interested, please contact Alayne or leave a comment. A review of your manuscript will be required before enrollment.

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Picture book writing course 35% off FB

The Art of Arc picture book writing course Cyber Monday sale ends on Sunday, December 5.

WHAT DOES YOUR MAIN CHARACTER BELIEVE? DISCOVERING THE TRUTH

by Alayne Kay Christian

On Wednesday, I shared a bonus post where I talked about your main character’s want vs need. If you missed it, click here. I want to expand on character’s motivation just a little bit. Another way to approach this is to ask yourself what your character believes in the beginning and what she believes in the end after she has experienced her story journey. Some people find their character’s beliefs by thinking in terms of lie and truth. What is the lie that your character believes in the beginning? And what is the truth that your character discovers in the end?

Sometimes it works to think of the lie as motivation (the fuel that moves the character forward through the story) and the truth as the story goal (the thing that creates change.)

So, following the want and need post, with the lie and truth method, there is only a small shift in the way one might look at the story they are writing. But I figure that small shift may be the thing that hits home for some writers. And once it hits home, they will find growth in their writing.

As I did in the last post, I challenge you to grab a stack of books and see if you can find stories that start with one belief (a lie) and end with a new belief (the truth). Very often, what the main character believes in the beginning of the story leads the character to the belief that transforms her by the end of the story. Just as with the want and need, knowing the truth/belief that will be revealed at the end before you start writing will be your guiding light in writing the rest of the story.

Think “before” and “after”. Who was your character when she first stepped over the inciting incident threshold into the story world? And who is she when he steps over his darkest moment into his turning point and new world?

Not all picture books have the lie and truth with a change in the character’s belief thing going on. But I urge you to analyze as many picture books as possible to see what you discover in this area. Also, consider analyzing your own stories to see if you already have it. If your story isn’t built around lie/truth/beliefs, offering that to your character might leave you surprised at the transformation you created in your own story.

FOLLOWING ARE SOME EXAMPLES

Using the same books as I did for want and need, and then adding some, I will talk about lie and truth.

NO BEARS ALLOWED by Lydia Lukidis and illustrated by Tara J. Hannon is a perfect example. In the beginning, Rabbit believes the lie that all bears are scary and will eat rabbits. In the end, Rabbit discovers the truth that some bears aren’t scary at all and they can actually make good friends.

NUGGET AND FANG by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Michael Slack is similar to NO BEARS ALLOWED. In the beginning, Nugget believes the lie that he can no longer be friends with his best friend Fang because sharks are toothy and scary. And they eat minnows! In the end, Nugget discovers the truth. Sometimes minnows and sharks can be friends.

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED written by me and illustrated by Polina Gortman.

In the beginning, Weed believes the lie that being seen or noticed will make him feel more important than an unseen weed. But would satisfying that belief have been enough to keep the story going in an active and compelling way? Would it have transformed Weed in any way on a deeper level by the end of the story? Or would he remain the same Weed that is just a little happier for a moment until he starts feeling “unseen” again? Would that have been the best message to offer readers? Would it have been the most satisfying ending? I think not.

What if, through his story journey Weed discovers the truth. It is much more satisfying to look outside himself and see others instead. In discovering the truth, Weed doesn’t only experience a change within himself; he effects positive change all around him. Even though Weed never gets to see it, in the end, he is more important than he ever imagined. And this is what the reader gets to see and understand. So, the lie that Weed believes fuels him to move forward in the story, but the truth that he discovers through his struggle to protect his belief in the lie is the real heart of the story.

BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA by me and illustrated by Joni Stringfield

In the beginning, the lie that Emily believes is the only way to feel close to her grandparents is to live closer to them, but since this isn’t possible, she must change in some way. She discovers the truth when she learns a way to feel close to her grandparents even when they are miles away from her.

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

In the beginning, Princess Viola believes the lie that the only way to be a princess is to be a “proper” princess and the darling of the kingdom. But in order to experience real change she must discover the truth. The only way she can be Princess Viola is to be true to herself. There’s more than one way to be the darling of the kingdom. And once the truth is revealed, she can let go of the belief that created her struggles throughout the story.

JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER by Peter McCarty

In the beginning, it’s not clear what Jeremy wants, but the illustration gives a sense that he wouldn’t mind going outside where all the other kids are. So, I’m going to guess that the lie he believes is that he is better off staying inside by himself. Then it seems he wants to keep the monster he draws happy. But even more important, he wants to get rid of the monster, which leads Jeremy outside. And though the story seems like it’s about imagination and fun and games, what it’s really about is Jeremy discovering the truth that there’s a world outside that just might be better than a safe and lonely room where imagination is his only friend.

'Tis the season!

The holiday season is a perfect time for penguins. An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin makes a beautiful Christmas gift for your favorite child or teacher, or to donate to your library, Toys for Tots or other “giving” opportunities and places. Below you will find a video about the true story followed by the book trailer.

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All books Christmas

CHRISTMAS GIFT AND STOCKING STUFFER IDEAS ABOVE!

I promised a bonus post for writing effective endings. So, here it is. If you missed the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team’s free three-part mini-course, click on the following links Part 1, part 2, part 3.

Bonus Post

YOU JUST MIGHT GET WHAT YOU NEED

by Alayne Kay Christian

As authors, teachers, and critique writers, we talk a lot about what the main character wants. We ask, “What is his goal or desire?” And sometimes, we think about what he needs that drives the story. I challenge you to grab a stack of books and see if you can find stories that have both a want and a need. Very often, what the main character thinks he wants in the beginning of the story isn’t what he needs to transform by the end of the story. But his “want” is what motivates him to take action and move forward in the story. And most often, the main character nor the reader really knows what that need is until the turning point in the story. But as a writer, it is super helpful to know the need before you start writing your story. Knowing the need that will be revealed in the end will be your guiding light in writing the rest of the story.

Your character’s want is usually something he is seeking externally. And while the need is usually shown in the end as something external/physical, it stems from something internal. This is where what I call the turning point comes in. He has a realization, change in thinking, change of heart—whatever it might be—that causes him to think differently about his approach to things. Then he takes action on that new way of thinking. Once the character gets what he needs, he is a changed person who likely views his problem/goal or the world around him a little differently from that point on.

Think “before” and “after.” Who was your character when he first stepped over the inciting incident threshold into the story world? And who is he when he steps over his darkest moment into his turning point and new world? How has he changed in the end?

Sometimes it works to think of “want” as motivation (the fuel that moves the character forward through the story) and the “need” as the true story goal (the thing that creates change.)

Not all picture books have this “want” “need” thing going on. But I urge you to analyze as many picture books as possible to see what you discover in this area. Also, consider analyzing your own stories to see if you already have it. If your story only has a “want,” might it strengthen your story to give your character a need as well?

FOLLOWING ARE SOME EXAMPLES

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED written by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Polina Gortman.

In the beginning, Weed wants nothing more than to be seen or noticed. But would achieving that in the end have transformed him in any way on a deeper level? Or would he remain the same Weed that is just a little happier for a moment until he starts feeling “unseen” again? Would that have been the best message to offer readers? Would it have been the most satisfying ending? I think not.

What if, what Weed needs is to look outside himself and see others instead? In doing so, Weed doesn’t only experience a change within himself; he effects positive change all around him. So, his want fuels him to move forward in the story, but the need that he discovers through his struggle to get what he wants is the real heart of the story.

BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA written by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Joni Stringfield

In the beginning, Emily wants to live closer to her grandparents, but since this isn’t possible, she must change in some way. She needs a way to feel close to her grandparents even when they are miles away from her.

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

In the beginning, Princess Viola wants to be a proper princess and the darling of the kingdom. But what she needs in order to experience real change in the end is to be true to herself. And once this need is revealed, her want is satisfied as well (but not exactly how she expected it).

MOSTLY MONSTERLY by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon

In the beginning, Bernadette wants to make friends and fit in. But what she needs is to be true to herself in a way that also gets her what she wants. And once this need is revealed, her want is satisfied as well.

JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER by Peter McCarty

In the beginning, it’s not clear what Jeremy wants, but the illustration gives a sense that he wouldn’t mind going outside where all the other kids are. Then it seems he wants to keep the monster he draws happy. But, even more important, to get rid of the monster. And though the story seems like it’s about imagination and fun and games, what it’s really about is Jeremy’s need to leave his apartment/room and make friends. And everything that happens in the story, eventually leads Jeremy to what he needs.

SAM AND EVA by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

In the beginning, Sam wants to draw solo. Eva wants to draw with him. But until they get what they need, which is to cooperate as a team, drawing isn’t quite what they wish for.

'Tis the season!

Even though, THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLDEDO CHRISTMAS WEED is a great book all year round, I learned that people tend to buy it at Christmastime, which means I only benefit from sales once a year (if I’m lucky). It’s currently on sale at Amazon for 43% off. Following is a two-minute YouTube video about the inspiring true story of the Toledo Christmas Weed, which is followed by the book trailer. A lovely Christmas gift for your favorite child or teacher, or to donate to your library. I give books to Toys for Tots. How many copies could you buy to donate at this great sale price?

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kid-lit writing wisdom

For our final “Wisdom” topic of the year, I asked the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team for their thoughts on writing effective and satisfying picture book endings. And with all the wisdom combined, we ended up with another great free course in picture book writing (although much of our wisdom can be applied to longer works). Our thoughts and tips on this topic have been presented in three parts. Plus, I will be offering a bonus post, so wait there’s more! If you missed parts one and two click here for part one and here for part two.  You can find a list of links to all of our 2021 Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom posts at the end of this post.

Today’s wisdom comes from Dawn Prochovnic, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Michelle Nott, and Pippa Chorley.

Words of Wisdom

MIRROR THE BEGINNING WITH THE ENDING, BUT WITH CHANGE

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Many times endings harken back to the beginnings–often with a change. This can be true even in nonfiction.

Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge by Ray Shepard, illustrated by Keith Mallett

In this book, the narrator is talking directly to Ona Judge, “Why you run away Ona Judge?” Shepard begins Ona Judge’s journey with a question. In the end, the narrator gives her a charge: “Then run, Ona Judge, run”. The character has changed.

The Floating Field: How a Group of Thai Boys Built Their Own Soccer Field by Scott Riley, illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien

In the beginning, we are introduced to a group of boys and their village on stilts on the water in the southern part of Thailand. In the end, the final image is of the boys retuning home after playing football (soccer). We return to the image of the village on stilts. The boys lives are different, but they still return home.

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

In my book, I begin by talking to the reader asking them to imagine what it might be like to go dormant. The ending ends the dormancy and begins to stir.

As a writer, can you find a way to mirror the ending with the beginning, but with a change?

QUESTIONS TO PONDER ABOUT YOUR STORY’S ENDING

by Pippa Chorley

Endings are part of your main character’s emotional journey and integral to the arc of any good story. Readers want to feel satisfied at when they close the last page. They want to feel that the ending is justified. They want all the loose ends tied up neatly with a bow on top!

It can really help to know your ending ahead of writing your book so that you make your arc as strong as possible and ensure everything that happens on the journey of the main character leads directly towards the ending.

If you are struggling with your story, ask yourself a few important questions:

Does your main character have emotional closure at the end? Is your main character better off at the end of the story than they were at the start, have they learnt something along the way?

In my picture book Stuffed!, a story about the nighttime adventures and arguments of Sam’s stuffed toys, I needed to make sure that I had emotional closure for both Sam and her toys at the end of the story. It begins with the toys arguing in the night and Sam waking up to find them strewn about her bedroom floor looking lost and alone the next morning. It was important when writing the ending that I addressed both Sam’s desires to help her toys and settled the toys arguments as well. I needed all the characters pulled together at the end of the story to make it feel satisfying and tie up all loose ends. Without that my main characters and my readers would not have had the emotional closure needed for a satisfying book.

Does your ending use a repeated phrase or end with similar lines to the very beginning? Does the tone of your ending match the beginning of the story?

I was very careful when writing my new picture book Out of the Box, that the story should come full circle. It begins with great excitement at the arrival of Granny. Sam’s birthday is only three sleeps away and she is hoping for all sorts of grand, expensive presents from her Granny. When things don’t turn out quite as she expected the story takes us on an emotional and imaginative journey with Sam and eventually back to Granny again at the end. Over the course of the story Sam learns and grows but it was important to me to bring her back full circle at the end, to her Granny, equally full of excitement. If I hadn’t done that then Granny would have been obsolete, and there is so much to love about Granny the story would have suffered for it. The tone of excitement at the start matches with the tone of excitement at the end as Sam has learnt an important lesson in the story – that our imaginations can give us just as much of an adventure than a toy.

Can you add a twist at the end to make it more of a surprise?

When I wrote Counting Sheep, a picture book about a little sheep who couldn’t jump over the fence, I came up with lots of possible ideas for the ending. At storytelling sessions, when I ask children how they think the problem should be resolved they nearly always say that the other sheep could help lift him over. It’s a lovely idea and one that crossed my mind too when writing the book, but it’s also very predictable. In the end I decided to write an ending that no one else ever thinks of. It is always a surprise and always a wow, why didn’t I think of that moment, for children as a result. I am ever grateful when I read this story to children to have written a surprise ending.

Hope these examples and questions help you make your endings super satisfying! Happy writing and editing everyone J

MAKE YOUR READER WANT TO RELIVE THE STORY: NOW THAT’S AN ENDING!

by Michelle Nott

A good ending will make us want to relive a story, to close a book only to open it back up, even when we know how it will end.

As we know with picture books and reading to young children, that’s just what we want to happen, to read the story over and over again. So that ending must be good! But strong endings need to conclude an already strong story with strong characters that a child wants to experience over and over again even, and especially, when they already know the ending.

As a freelance editor, I have read lots of manuscripts. Some stories seem to be going fine and then the ending just comes and goes. No hurrah, no tears, no laugh. When that happens, I advise the writer to review what events are leading to the ending. Often, not enough has happened to logically and smoothly arrive at the ending they want. It may be a lovely or funny or inspiring last sentence, but there is a missing link between the middle and end which compromises the final emotion.

For example, in my early reader Dragon Amy’s Flames, she wants to win a prize by hitting the bullseye at the fair. But she has a habit of burning up that and other toys whenever she feels frustrated. And so, she has to learn to control her temper. The reader sees she is trying hard and making progress calming down and staying focused in different scenarios. By this point, the reader knows she could probably do it. And so, I could have ended the story with her finally hitting the bullseye. The story had logically led to that conclusion. But instead, the next day she asks her brother if she can practice with him. He agrees but only if she controls her flames. That could have also been a logical place to end, on an image of her succeeding. But it would not have been as satisfying as how it did truly end.

I added one more moment of suspense and doubt: “Sizzle, a spark flew too high. Fizzle, a flame fell too low. And then … Amy’s scales quivered. Her skin shriveled. Her nostrils flared…ROAR [and this is when something previously would have been engulfed in flames]… and ZING!”

The last illustration shows she has hit the bullseye perfectly. Her family (and the reader) cheers.

If your ending looks and sounds like it has all the elements of a strong and satisfying ending but it’s not getting the emotion for which you’re striving, look at the lines between your middle and end. Is there a space waiting to be filled? It may just need a sentence or two. It may need an illustration note to create just enough of a pause. Maybe you could take a refrain and twist it just one more time.

As they say, “Mind the Gap!” and your story will smoothly get to where it needs to go.

WRAP THINGS UP BUT KEEP THEM WONDERING

by Dawn Prochovnic

When I reflect on story endings that are especially satisfying to me, the one constant is that I find myself thinking about the story long after it has ended. For example, when a television show has me hooked, I’m sure to be thinking about and/or talking about “last night’s episode” when I wake up the next morning. Likewise, the movies and novels that I count amongst my favorites are the ones I’m still reflecting on long after I’ve finished them.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite ways to end a picture book is with an ending that wraps things up in a satisfying way, but that also invites the reader to ponder what happens next.

One of my first books, The Nest Where I Like to Rest, offers an example. It is a cumulative story about a mama hen who wants to rest while she waits for her nest of eggs to hatch. The story begins:

This is the nest where I like to rest.

These are the eggs I carefully laid to hatch in the nest where I like to rest.

But how can I rest with a rat near my nest?

Throughout the story, mama hen’s nest is disrupted again and again by various characters. Finally, at the end, mama hen successfully hatches her eggs. “Hooray!” you might say! But not so fast. The last line in the story reads:

But how can I rest with these chicks in my nest?

This “second ending” invites readers to wonder, “What happens next?” What will those chicks be up to? Will mama hen EVER get any rest? (parents everywhere know the answer to that!).

The ending of my most recent book, Lucy’s Blooms, provides a similar invitation for readers to consider what happens next. In the story, Lucy nurtures a garden of blooms she finds in the meadow behind Gram’s house, with a goal of entering the town’s gardening contest. Throughout the story, Lucy’s blooms grow and change, but Lucy’s love for them remains strong—even when Lucy doesn’t get what she hopes for. In the end, Lucy and her blooms return to Gram’s open and loving arms. The lines on the next-to-last spread read:

“C’mon,” Lucy said with a smile.

“I’ll race you back to Gram’s.”

She took hold of her wagon and ran.

And the last spread reads (with a fabulous illustration to match):

“A fantastic flurry of silky seeds swirled and twirled behind her.”

This “ second ending” invites readers to wonder, “What will happen to all of those silky seeds? How will Gram and Lucy spend their afternoon? Their next week? Their next summer?”

One of the things I love most about books with this type of ending is the opportunity to ask young readers these types of questions when the book is shared. Their ideas for how a story might continue beyond the last page never cease to amaze me!

WAIT THERE’S MORE!

FOLLOW MY BLOG OR KEEP A CLOSE EYE OUT FOR MY BONUS POST ON ENDINGS.

FOLLOWING ARE SOME LINKS TO OTHER KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM POSTS

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 1 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 2 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 3 of 3) 

HOW WRITE OUTSTANDING FIRST LINES AND BEGINNINGS (part1part 2part 3)

WHY KID-LIT WRITERS SHOULD READ MENTOR TEXTS AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING THEM PART ONE and PART TWO

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY PART ONE and PART TWO

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION DOESN’T (USUALLY) HAPPEN OVERNIGHT PART ONEPART TWO, and PART THREE

INTRODUCING THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM

Read Full Post »

kid-lit writing wisdom

For our final “Wisdom” topic of the year, I asked the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team for their thoughts on writing effective and satisfying picture book endings. And with all the wisdom combined, we ended up with another great free course in picture book writing (although much of our wisdom can be applied to longer works). Our thoughts and tips on this topic will be presented in three parts, so keep an eye out for more. If you missed part one, click here.  You can find a list of links to all of our 2021 Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom posts at the end of this post.

Today’s wisdom comes from Laura Gehl, Ellen Leventhal, Vivian Kirkfield, and Rob Sanders.

Words of Wisdom

ENDING WITH A BONUS

by Laura Gehl

One of my favorite types of ending is when the main conflict is resolved before the final page, allowing the last spread or two to add a twist of humor or an extra layer to the story.

For example, in I Got a Chicken For My Birthday, by me and Sarah Horne, Ana is initially upset about getting a chicken as a gift from her grandmother, instead of the amusement park tickets that she had requested. This conflict is resolved when the chicken builds Ana a backyard amusement park and Ana realizes Abuela Lola knew exactly what she was doing. But the wonderful spread with Ana riding in eggshell-shaped roller coaster cars with Abuela Lola is not the end of the book! Afterward, Ana says, “Next year, I’m asking Abuela Lola for a trip to the moon!” and we see the chicken beginning to design a rocket ship.

In My Pillow Keeps Moving, by me and Christopher Weyant, a lonely man keeps accidentally purchasing a dog—first as a pillow, then as a footrest, and finally as a coat. The main conflict is resolved when the man decides to adopt the dog. But then the story continues with the dog winking at her feline friend, the man accidentally purchasing the cat as a hat, and all three becoming a happy family on the final page.

In Judge Juliette, by me and Mari Lobo, Judge Juliette has to rule on whether her family should get a dog (like her mom wants) or a cat (as her dad hopes). The main conflict is resolved when Juliette discovers she must recuse herself, since judges aren’t allowed to rule in cases involving family members. But the book ends on a funny twist when Juliette hands her courtroom and gavel over to a friend and takes on the role of lawyer instead. Juliette says she would like to make a case for getting a dog AND a cat…AND (on the final page!)…a boa constrictor.

These endings with a little extra twist are favorites for me as a reader (This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen is a great example) and as a writer. I love how this type of ending gives the reader the satisfaction of “Hooray, the conflict is resolved!” and then a bonus laugh, or an extra “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”

WHAT KIND OF ENDING WILL SET YOUR BOOK APART FROM THE REST?

by Ellen Leventhal

There are many different types of endings, all satisfying in their own way. I love endings with a twist, a surprise, a laugh, and even with an “aww.” Of course, your conclusion needs to stay in line with the rest of the book. You wouldn’t want a serious, quiet book to end with a big guffaw. A smile, yes, but probably not a huge laugh. Humorous books can definitely have an “aww” ending, but there needs to be a lead-up to it. It’s important to keep the character of your book throughout. When a funny book ends on an “aww” note, a fun thing to do is to have a humorous page turn that would tie it all together. It’s certainly not necessary, but it’s sometimes fun. I’m currently working on two humorous books that end with a sweet solution to the problem. However, the last page turns are both wordless spreads that tell the reader that something funny is about to happen.

I knew exactly what ending I wanted in A Flood of Kindness. It ends with an “aww” moment, but it wasn’t surprising. Readers could guess it may happen, but still, when it did, it was satisfying. (At least reviews say it is, and who am I to argue?) As an aside, illustrator Blythe Russo evoked such emotion that the reader roots for this main character from the minute they see her.

Lola Can’t Leap (by Noelle Shawa and me) has a surprise ending in the fact that the main character does NOT reach her goal, but she discovers something else. And then, Noelle made it even more surprising on the last page turn with her art.

I love circular stories where the end takes the reader back to the beginning of the story. There are so many wonderful circular stories. I recently re-read Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline’s Coyote Moon, which starts with Moonrise, takes us through the night, and ends with the coyote family waiting for the moon to wake them again.

Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets (written by Ellen Rothberg and me, illustrated by Joel Cook) is circular in the sense that when reading aloud, children cheer “Don’t eat the bluebonnets!” throughout the book. The last line invites them to echo it one last time.

Play around and see what will set YOUR book apart. And mostly, enjoy the process. Happy Writing!

ENDINGS THAT WRAP THINGS UP IN A NICE PACKAGE OF WORDS

by Vivian Kirkfield

Early on in my writing life, I attended a conference and heard Candace Fleming speak about picture book endings – and what she said made a huge impression on me. She told us that when a reader gets to the end of the book, they should be saying one of three things: HAHAHAHA, AHA! or AWWW.

Why, you ask? Because the emotional connection between the reader and the story is so very important. And, if the reader laughs at the end because the story was funny, or is surprised because there was a twist, or if the reader’s heart is touched, the author has succeeded.

For me, when I read the last lines of a story, I love to get a chill down my spine or a warm fuzzy feeling. For me, a ‘satisfying ending’ is an ending that tugs at my heart…it’s an ending that fulfills the promise of the opening lines of the story. Here are a couple of examples:

SWEET DREAMS, SARAH:

Opening Lines: Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner.

                          Hurry up!

                          Eyes down!

                          Don’t speak!

                          Slaves were property–like a cow, or plow, or the cotton that grew in the master’s fields.

Satisfying Ending: Sarah took a slow deep breath.

                              She slid out the papers.

                               She read out loud!

                               S.E. Goode

                                Cabinet Bed

                                No. 322,177. Patented July 14, 1885

                               Staring at her name in print, Sarah proudly traced each letter. Her idea, her invention, her name in history.

                               She had built more than a piece of furniture.

                               She had built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true.

MOON MAN: Robert Goddard and the Liquid Fuel-Propelled Rocket  (One of the stories in FROM HERE TO THERE)

Opening Lines: Sometimes Robert Goddard’s curiosity was so intense, it made things explode.

Satisfying Ending: Robert Goddard ushered in the era of space flight with the world’s first liquid fuel-propelled rocket. Today’s space program is built on the discoveries he made, and for some of us, that trip to Mars young Robert dreamed about up in the cherry tree may one day become a reality.

ALL ABOARD: George Stephenson and the Steam Locomotive (One of the stories in FROM HERE TO THERE)

Opening Lines: Click! Clunk! Hiss!                   

Deep underground, in a maze of pitch-black tunnels, young George Stephenson hefted chunks of coal.

Satisfying Ending: The railway revolution had begun, and George Stephenson had led the charge, changing the landscape not only of England, but of the entire world.

One of the best ways to learn how to write satisfying endings is to read LOTS of them. Pick out your favorite picture books and use them as mentor texts. Examine the endings and observe how you feel when you read them. And then, go bravely into the morning or the night or whenever you do your best writing and play with those words until YOUR satisfying ending emerges!

MOVING FROM TROPES TO TREMENDOUS ENDINGS

by Rob Sanders

Sometimes to understand what something is, it’s helpful to know what it isn’t. Endings we grew up hearing or that were frequently used tropes, are a good place to look for what not to do.

That’s all folks. Bug’s Bunny may have been able to get away with his famous line to end Saturday morning cartoons, but as writers it’s not that easy. A story that just ends—without an ending—one that just stops without providing resolution or emotional climax, does not actually have an ending. Story doesn’t just end. It builds to and ending.

The End. As I always told student writers, “If you have to write THE END, then you haven’t written an ending.” The ending (even in nonfiction) is the conclusion of the plot. After the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and falling action, the ending brings the reader home and helps to create a feeling of completeness or wholeness for the piece.

They lived happily ever after. Oh, that the life really always ended with happily ever after. While most picture books do end happily or hopefully, the ending is really the place the author can create a variety of emotional impacts. In his pyramid plot structure, Freytag called this the denouement. Some define denouement as the emotional climax of the story. This emotional impact may affect the reader in a variety of ways. It may bring a smile, a tear, a cheer, a spine-tingling chill, an ah-h-h-h, and more.

And that’s the way it was. Walter Cronkite ended his CBS evening news broadcasts every night by saying, “And that’s the way it was.” Writers sometimes are tempted to conclude a story by recapping everything that has gone before. In this situation, the writer tries to ensure that the reader doesn’t miss out on anything important that’s come before. While the intention is good and while the approach might work on occasion, it also discredits readers and their ability to think, remember, and participate in the story.

The moral of the story. I grew up with books that made sure I understood the lesson or moral once I’d finished reading. Today, “The moral of the story,” should be saved for folktales. Yes, many current picture books do have a lesson or theme, but a skillfully written manuscript reveals that lesson or theme and a wise writer trusts the reader to make inferences to uncover the lesson or theme. (By the way, it’s ok if readers arrive different at different conclusions. It’s the magic of storytelling—each reader or listener can their own ideas about the story).

So, how do you end a picture book manuscript? Remember these tips:

  1. Don’t rely on tropes.
  2. Build to an ending.
  3. Make sure the ending completes the plot.
  4. Create an emotional impact.
  5. Trust your readers.

Allow readers to make their own inferences and to draw their own conclusions.

MORE WISDOM ON THE WAY!

Follow my blog or keep a close eye out because we have more “writing endings” wisdom coming from Dawn Prochovnic, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Michelle Nott, and Pippa Chorley.

FOLLOWING ARE SOME LINKS TO OTHER KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM POSTS

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 1 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 2 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 3 of 3) 

HOW WRITE OUTSTANDING FIRST LINES AND BEGINNINGS (part1part 2part 3)

WHY KID-LIT WRITERS SHOULD READ MENTOR TEXTS AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING THEM PART ONE and PART TWO

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY PART ONE and PART TWO

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION DOESN’T (USUALLY) HAPPEN OVERNIGHT PART ONEPART TWO, and PART THREE

INTRODUCING THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM

FOLLOWING ARE SOME LINKS TO OTHER KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM POSTS

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 1 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 2 of 3)

KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS WRITING CAPTIVATING MIDDLES (Part 3 of 3) 

HOW WRITE OUTSTANDING FIRST LINES AND BEGINNINGS (part1part 2part 3)

WHY KID-LIT WRITERS SHOULD READ MENTOR TEXTS AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING THEM PART ONE and PART TWO

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY PART ONE and PART TWO

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION DOESN’T (USUALLY) HAPPEN OVERNIGHT PART ONEPART TWO, and PART THREE

INTRODUCING THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM

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kid-lit writing wisdom

The Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team is gradually working our way into topics such as submission and marketing. But we believe it’s important to talk about the craft of writing along with the writer’s life first, which will also include the topic of critiques and critique groups. When we last left off with the Wisdom series, we talked all about writing outstanding first lines and beginnings (part1, part 2, part 3). Now it’s time to tackle middles. I struggled with words to describe a good middle and my favorite words were “captivating” “compelling” and “engaging.” They all have similar meanings. If your middle doesn’t compel readers to keep turning pages, it probably needs some tweaking or a rewrite. The same goes for engage or captivate. What will make your readers want to keep reading? With my many years as a professional critique writer and the former acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press, I can tell you that you can have the best beginning and ending, but if the middle doesn’t keep the story train on the track, the story will never survive.

This month, I’m excited to share our wise authors’ many fabulous tips and examples for writing strong middles. These tips can also be used for revising your stories’ middles, so you get double the treasure with these posts. Today’s post will focus on building a story via cause and effect and how a weak cause and effect thread can lead to an episodic story. Ellen Leventhal and I were on the same wavelength, so we both wrote about cause and effect. Probably no surprise, but my portion is quite long, so I’ll start with Ellen’s wonderful thoughts and examples and then finish with my mini-lesson for writing middles. Before we move into sharing our wisdom, I have some good news to share.

Happy Book Birthday

Beth Anderson’s fantastic book TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE: Pandemonium and Patience in the President House (illustrated by S.D. Shindler) is coming into the world on October 5!

Congratulations, Beth.

TAD LINCOLNS RESTLESS WRIGGLE FC

My friend and fellow Word Birds 2021 member Nancy Churnin has two new babies being born!

DEAR MR. DICKENS (illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe) with a birth date of October 1 and A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah (illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg) with a birth date of October 5.

Congratulations, Nancy!

mr. Dickensimage0 (16)

Congratulations!

My longtime critique partner and friend Hannah Holt’s fun, funny, and educational picture book A HISTORY OF UNDERWEAR: With Professor Chicken (illustrated by Korwin Briggs) is now available for preorder.

Congratulations, Hannah!

Final Cover Underwear_Medium

Now for some words of writing wisdom. . . .

Words of WisdomTHE MIDDLE SHOWS US HOW THE MAIN CHARACTER GOT TO THE END

by Ellen Leventhal

Somewhere between the excitement of those glorious first lines and the relief of coming up with a satisfying ending, something has to happen. With picture books, we don’t have much time or space to bridge those two, but the middle IS the story. It’s the journey, and that’s true whether you are utilizing a traditional arc or something a little different. We still need to see the character move forward toward that end. When I teach writing to kids, I talk a lot about cause and effect. For example, in my book, A FLOOD OF KINDNESS, I first jotted down the following. Because there was a flood (cause) Charlotte lost her possessions, and her home was ruined.(effect) Because her home was ruined, (cause) she had to go to a shelter (effect). I did that for each scene until the cause and effect got us to the ending. It would be so much easier to say something like, “Charlotte’s house flooded, but she learned that doing kindness for others would help her heal, so she gave a boy her teddy bear.” Easy, but not a story. The middle is where we learn all about Charlotte, her emotions, obstacles, and growth. It tells us HOW she got to the end.

I don’t always approach middles that way, but when I do, I come up with different cause and effect scenarios. I think about all the different ways my character could reach the ending. How do I want my character to achieve the goal? Or not achieve her original goal? Once I choose a path, I begin to write. I work on flow and transition, always asking myself questions such as, does this work with the beginning? Does it lead to the outcome? Do I want to change the outcome? Is it child-friendly?

This is just one trick in the toolbox of writing middles, and to be honest, it doesn’t always seamlessly lead to a satisfying ending. But that’s ok because, as we all know, writing is revising.

The middle has the power to bring our character to life and truly bring us on the journey with her. It’s where we see her emotions and obstacles. It’s where the reader hopefully connects with the character. Writing the middle is not easy, but when that messy middle flawlessly brings us to our satisfying ending, it’s magic.

WK_FloodOfKindness_Cover_2 (002) Official

SOLID MIDDLES VS FRACTURED MIDDLES

by Alayne Kay Christian

I went through the Art of Arc course to see if I could choose just a couple top tips, but there is so much that goes into writing compelling middles that it was difficult to choose. However, the fact that I dedicate two full lessons to the topics of cause and effect and episodic stories convinced me to share some already existing blog posts on these very important topics. You will find the links below. These two posts don’t only have a wealth of information, they offer worksheets and ways to test if your story is episodic. These are old posts, so any deals or giveaways are no longer valid.

EPISODIC STORIES AND CAUSE AND EFFECT

FRACTURED MIDDLES

What would a Dachshund look like without a middle? A school bus? The Eiffel Tower? Imagine just about anything without a middle, and what do you get? What if the Dachshund, school bus, or the Eiffel Tower look like if they had a weak middle? What if the middles of the Dachshund, school bus, or Eiffel Tower were disconnected from the beginning and ending of your story? In the following video, I have a little fun demonstrating solid middles vs fractured middles using crude and wacky drawings.

Read my blog post about EPISODIC STORIES here.

CAUSE AND EFFECT RUFFLE

In the following video I do a clumsy ruffle demonstration explaining how a solid cause and effect thread vs a broken one can impact your story’s middle.

Read my post about CAUSE AND EFFECT here.

EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER RIDE (a little something extra)

EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER v3

I love picture books that offer an emotional roller coaster ride. Since, I already have an example that I did for a few recent manuscript critiques using the book THOSE SHOES by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, I share the PDF via the following link Middles Those Shoes. This example highlights the many wonderful ups and downs this story ride offers. In addition, it points out the links in the cause and effect chain. This analysis is a good example of one way to use published books as mentor texts.

The ups and downs of the roller coaster ride are usually created by tension that results from obstacles/conflict/struggles. As I was going through Art of Arc’s lessons about writing middles, the following blurb jumped out at me. I thought it worth sharing as I end my portion of this post and start preparing my next blog post with more great words of wisdom from our blog team.

Straightforward and struggle-free stories, with no apparent consequences or sense of what might happen if the main character doesn’t succeed, will generally lose a reader’s attention. But when obstacles (conflict) create struggles and force the main character to make choices and decisions, the story is taken in new and exciting directions. This engages the reader.”

I can’t wait to share more good news and the treasure trove of wisdom about middles from our other wise authors. Follow my blog or keep a close eye out because we have more “writing middles” wisdom coming from Beth Anderson, Kirsti Call, Pippa Chorley, Vivian Kirkfield, Michelle Nott, Rosie Pova, Dawn Prochovnic, Rob Sanders, and Melissa Stoller.

FOLLOWING ARE SOME LINKS TO OTHER KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM POSTS

WHY KID-LIT WRITERS SHOULD READ MENTOR TEXTS AND HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING THEM PART ONE and PART TWO

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY PART ONE and PART TWO

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION DOESN’T (USUALLY) HAPPEN OVERNIGHT PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE

INTRODUCING THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM

REMINDER SEASON OF KINDNESS

Before I move on to the video, I want to remind everyone that your opportunity to win fabulous prizes for you, your children, or your classroom will end on October 1. The Season of Kindness guidelines can be found here. I hope you’ve been working on creating kindness, and I will be pleasantly surprised in the coming days when you share your acts of kindness in comments.

CHECK OUT THESE FABULOUS PRIZES

PRIZES, PRIZES, PRIZES!!!!

Winners will be chosen based on creativity, humor, fun, kind acts, bonus book photos, and following the guidelines accurately. The top eight winners’ names will be drawn from a hat randomly, and prizes will be offered in an elimination process. So, the first name drawn from the hat will have the first pick of the 8 prizes. The next person will choose from the remaining seven prizes, and the third will pick from the remaining six prizes, and on and on.

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