Monthly Archives: June 2017

 WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: IS HE A GOOD GUY OR A BAD GUY? (Part 5)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

The creative juices are flowing and you are writing as if there is no tomorrow. After all you have carefully plotted out your story. Great start. As the story progresses, Johnnie Rabbit is up to some tricks and you have an idea how to articulate it and how the matter will be resolved in the end. But somehow your rabbit character seems flat. Why is this?

Although you are writing a children’s book with few words, there is an important step every author should take at the beginning of telling a story—you should build a character bible for your main character and the secondary ones. It is the greatest way to create interesting characters, and a way for you to truly know them.

For Johnnie Rabbit to appeal to readers they don’t just want to know his name. These are some of the information readers will want to know: How old is he? How big is he? What is his colour? Where does he live? What is his weakness? Is he a chatterbox? Is he introverted?  Does he have a best friend or any friends at all? Does he have a family? What are his habits and idiosyncrasies (does he blink continuously?) When I was writing Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and he got into trouble, I had him say, “What have I done, what have I done? I only wanted to have some fun!” I found this to be catchy and made it unique to Charlie as his go-to expression which I’ll use throughout the series.

Writing down details about your protagonist serve two main purposes. (1) You know your character in great details and therefore know what he is capable of, and this will assist readers to know him well also. (2) You do not have to rack you brain to find out about Johnnie Rabbit when you write because you have the information at your finger tips. This is especially helpful if you are writing a series.

While Johnnie Rabbit is the main character of the story and we should know a lot about him, we do need to know some information about the supporting characters in the story too, especially if they reappear. These characters will have different attitudes and points of views from Johnnie Rabbit, therefore recording details about them will help you to avoid writing misinformation. Building  character bibles for both main and secondary characters is a good thing.

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WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: PLACE, PLOT, AND IDEAS (Part 4)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

Let the writing begin! You have followed the previous three steps (parts 1, 2, & 3) I have laid out and now you are ready to put pen to paper, or better still, you are ready to let the keyboard sing! What else could you possible require?

Like any other trade, a writer needs the tools of the trade—a comfortable workspace to read and write; a computer of course; a thesaurus and a dictionary—okay, I know that you can easily access these documents on your computer, but having a paper copy is a good thing for a few reasons.

Quick access book

(a) Having these books at your fingertips provide easy access so that you do not have to boot up your computer to check a single word. (b) Microsoft does not know synonyms and will sometimes give you an incorrect spelling of a word, or indicate that your spelling is incorrect when it is not. (c)When you need to find the perfect word, sometimes the computer will not provide it. The other things you need are a printer and paper. Trust me, no one writes a perfect book in one sitting. You will be doing a lot of printing and checking, and rewriting. I suggest you write two manuscripts initially (more about this later).

The next move is to write a plot of your story. Remember that every good story has a beginning—the point where you introduce your main character and grab the reader’s interest—a middle—the place where conflicts builds up, and the end—where conflicts are resolved and you leave your reader wanting more. The plot does not have to be sophisticated; it is merely a guide to keep you on the straight-and-narrow! Since we do not usually think through everything logically, sometimes you have to change parts of the story so that it makes sense.

When I began to write Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, I already had half of the plot worked out based on my original idea. The story was going to be about a family of squirrels living in a park in a city, and it was going to revolve around the fall season because I saw the crab apple trees laden with fruits in the fall. So what? What would be the conflict? How would it be resolved? These details were unknown. This is where imagination took over and as the creative juices flowed, all kinds of ideas came to the fore and I was able to complete mt plot.

Nosey Charlie Goes To Court is now available at Amazon.com.

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: BUY, BORROW, BUT DO NOT STEAL! (Part 3)

By Yvonne Blackwood

Now that you have a great idea for your children’s book—the tale of Johnnie Rabbit—and you have researched both the subject and the market, you are ready to write.

Johnnie Rabbit

Wait! Not so fast. Assuming that this writing event is not just a one-time exercise, you need to prepare a bit more.

 Buy, Borrow, but do not steal!

It is imperative that you join the public library or renew your membership if it has lapsed. Why? Because you need to buy some children’s books, but to avoid spending a fortune you should borrow some also. When I was preparing to write Nosey Charlie Comes to Town, I would borrow seven or eight books at a time, read them, return them, and borrow another set until I was fully versed it how they are written. Reviewing children’s books on the internet serves a purpose by giving you a cursory view of the books, however, if you are serious about writing in this genre you must familiarize yourself with several aspects of the books that the internet cannot provide realistically.

Sizes and Page Count

Children’s books come in several sizes, from small 5 X 5 to over 11 inches. They also have various page count. It was only while doing my research that I learned that children’s books for ages 3-8 usually have 24, 32, or 48 pages. Knowing the number of pages your book will contain is important because it will dictate the number of words you can write and the number of illustrations the book can have.

Page Lay-out

All children’s picture books are not created equally. You should be aware that each has a different lay-out. Some books have text and illustrations on alternate pages, others have illustrations on every page with text above, below, or to the side of the illustrations, and some even have text written in the illustrations.

 Pricing is important

By examining books bought or borrowed you will observe that prices vary, that hard cover books tend to be more expensive, and that soft cover books fall within similar ranges. The last thing any author wants to do is to overprice her/his book because of lack of knowledge.

 Age Range

Your inspection of the children’s book section of the library will make it clear very quickly that the children’s picture book is a wide category, and that it is broken down further into ages 1-3 and 3-8. The first group can only handle board books. These have thick pages made from cardboard or chipboard, have brightly coloured pictures and little text with about a dozen pages. Since you have a tale to tell in your Johnnie Rabbit story, the age group you will serve is ages 3-8, and the word count should be maximum 1500. These matters you can only learn by physically examining books.

Next article: Writing is a lonely vocation: Join a writers group

Coming very soon, my second book in the Nosey Charlie series Nosey Charlie Goes To Court! 

Nosey Charlie Goes To Court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town

www.yvonneblackwood.com

 

 

 

 

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING (Part 2)

I have a great idea!

 

You have decided on a fabulous idea. You are going to write a children’s story about Johnnie Rabbit, and he is going to be anthropomorphic. Although you have seen rabbits in the backyard and at the petting zoo, you really do not know much about them, except that the meat is eaten because you have seen it at the supermarket. How are you going to write a convincing story about a rabbit and not seem stupid? You must research, and do it diligently.

 

Research

Research is a major part of writing for children. You must research your subject and the market place. First, the subject. What are rabbits? What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Where do they live? (You don’t want write in your story that Johnnie Rabbit lives in a sty!) How large do they become? What are their habits? Gathering this important information not only provides meat for your story, it gives it authenticity and makes your character real even if Johnnie Rabbit is fictional.

When I decided to write my children’s story, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, the only thing I knew about squirrels is that they are always hiding nuts. I had no idea what they ate—it could not be just nuts! —although I have observed a determined little squirrel who regularly visits my backyard and tries every trick in the book, including lying vertically against the fence, in order to eat the seeds in the bird feeder. My research taught me that their diet consists of nuts, fruits, and seeds. This information was handily incorporated into the story and will certainly be used again and again in other episodes of The Nosey Charlie Adventures.

Second, you must research the children’s book market. Are there books about rabbits and similar animals? How many are there? Tapping into Amazon.com and Google will give you a good idea. You should also check how recent the last book on the subject was published. Are rabbits a popular subject in the children’s book genre? Read pop culture magazines and watch recent cartoons to get a sense of trends and speech patterns. Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, and it appears that there is a market for your rabbit story, get set to take step # 3.

Next article: Buy, Borrow, but  don’t steal!

www.yvonneblackwood.com

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town