One Writer’s Journey

March 21, 2018

Picture Book Writing: Workshop a Mentor Text

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:59 am
Tags: , , , ,

Most of you probably already know that I tend gush about mentor texts.  In picture book writing, they are a great way to study pacing, giving the illustrator space to work and more.

But getting the most out of a mentor text can be tough.  Sitting there, flipping through the pages, I have a tendency to get distracted by the art, that really great page turn, and my favorite funny moments.  There is always something to distract me in a top-notch picture book.

One way to make a mentor text work for you is to “workshop” it.  What do I mean?  There are three steps.

Type out the text.

Once you’ve typed it out in standard manuscript format, here are a few things to study.

  • Just how long is it?  Compare it to your own manuscript.
  • How much of the story is in the text?  What does the author include?
  • What does the author leave out?
  • How did the illustrator expand on the text?

Create a story board.

You probably won’t want to use the actual text to do this.  Instead, describe each spread in just a few words. The story board will help you study pacing.  Take note of the following:

  • How many spreads introduce the main character?
  • On which spread do you learn the story problem?
  • How many attempts are made to solve it?
  • Is there a darkest moment?  On which spread?
  • How many spreads are spent on the anti-climax?

Dummy the picture book.

You can probably do this with a copy of what you typed out but you’ll need the book as published as well.  Once you’ve taped the text into your own dummy be sure to note:

  • How much text is in each spread.
  • How the author makes use of page turns.
  • How each spread differs from the one before and the one following. It might be different characters, action, setting, mood or emotion.
  • The difference between one page spreads and two page spreads.

Workshopping a mentor text will help you see how and why it works.  By comparing it to your own manuscript, you will also see how your work differs and what you still need to improve before sending your work to a potential editor or agent.

Don’t just love the mentor book. Make it work for you!

–SueBE

Advertisements

November 9, 2017

Storyboard: One Way to Outline Your Picture Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:26 am
Tags: , , ,

When you write a picture book, you need to make certain you have enough story.  The problem is that there has to be enough to stretch over 32 pages.  And this has to be 32 pages with zing.  They can’t be scant.  They can’t be meaningless.  They have to matter.

I’ve been noodling over a new idea for just over a month now.  I know it is a story that matters.  How do I know?  People are arguing about it.  Everyone is certain that their answer is Right with a capital R.  But I have to make sure this story that matters can fit inside and fill the inside of a picture book.

One of the best ways to tell is to storyboard it.  For those of you who have never worked up a storyboard, it is a worksheet, or board, that allows you to mock-up a picture book so that you can see the entire thing on one page.  I don’t like working on something as small as a sheet of printer paper.  My storyboard is a piece of cardboard that was used to cover a mirror in shipment.

Why bother with a storyboard?  The great thing about using a story board is that I can see right away if I have enough scenes.  Will my idea fill a whole picture book?

So I start by writing a sentence or a phrase for each scene.  I do this on post it notes.  Once I have my post-it scenes in hand, I set about arranging them on the various spreads.

Some people prefer to do this on a worksheet.  I like this post-it note approach because I can re-arrange things as needed. To an extent, the order of my scenes are sequential.  This happened on X date.  This followed on Y date.  And this was on Z. But that just covers the historic spreads.  The modern ones are going to take some fiddling.  Post-its and my giant board let me move, cut apart, put on one two-page spread, and just generally fiddle.

When I’m done, I have an outline and I’m ready to write.  Not that the writing will necessarily be easy but at least I know when I’m done I’ll have a story that is long enough, and worth of, a picture book.

–SueBE

January 31, 2017

The Storyboard: The Best Way to Outline Your Picture Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
Tags:

cave-below-outlineFor about two weeks now, I’ve been researching a new picture book tentatively titled “Cave Below.”  No, I didn’t do all of the research in two weeks.  This one has been rattling around in my head for a couple of years.  I just finally got serious and decided to get it done so I’ve been reading about the history of a cave, the geology and the chemistry involved.

With pages of notes, it was time to outline.  One of the best ways to outline a picture book manuscript is the storyboard.  For those of you who have never worked up a storyboard, it is a worksheet, or board, that allows you to mock-up a picture book so that you can see the entire thing on one page.  I don’t like working on something as small as a sheet of printer paper.  My storyboard is a piece of cardboard that was used to cover a mirror in shipment.

Why bother with a storyboard?  The great thing about using a story board is that I can see right away if I have enough scenes for a whole picture book.

But before I can lay things out, I need to transfer some of my notes onto post-it notes.  I fill out a post-it note/or part of a note, for each scene.  Then I take my storyboard and put everything in place.

Some people prefer to do this on a worksheet.  I like this post-it note approach because I can re-arrange things as needed.  When you’re writing a nonfiction book about a process, the order of the scenes is determined by the process itself.  The problem is that no single source talked about the entire process depicted in my book.

Because of this, I’m having to mesh what one source gives me with another.  In this case, it meant shifting what was initially scene 2, or the second speadk down the board so that it becomes spread 5.

Now that I have the storyboard, I’m ready to write.

–SueBE

May 31, 2013

Kathleen Kemly: What Illustrator’s Can Teach Writers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:07 am
Tags: , , ,

Here is another amazing video produced by Dana Sullivan,  Assistant Regional Advisor of the Western Washington region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This one features Kathleem Kemly and her work on the picture book Molly by Golly.  

As with Paul Schmid, I was fascinated by how she combines computer capabilities and traditional illustration techniques.  Don’t skip the video thinking that they combine them in the same way because their approach is completely different although both of them talk about creating spontaneous, lively drawings.

If you are a picture book writer, this is an especially good video to watch because Kemly shows how she storyboards and dummies.  She also discusses the flow of a manuscript in terms of illustrations as well as various design elements.

I think my favorite part was watching her layer in color, adding it, wiping it off, painting blue then yellow then red. Amazing!

If you write picture books, take a look and see how the “other half” of the picture book team works.

–SueBE

April 21, 2010

Storyboards

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:36 am
Tags: , ,

At the workshop on 4/17, somehow we got on the topic of pacing in picture books and using storyboards and dummies to test out your manuscript.  I promised to get more info to several participants but won’t get to it until after the retreat.  Hopefully the post today on storyboards and the one tomorrow on dummies will tide them over.

A storyboard is a way of viewing your entire picture book manuscript at a glance.  It was originally used by comic book artists and animators to plan out their work. Now picture book writers are using it too.   It is easier to show you a storyboard than it is to describe one, so here is my board.  As you can see it is a large piece of cardboard with the appropriate number of spreads pasted onto it.

When I am noodling over a new picture book,  I take a packet of post-it notes and write out one scene per note.   “Runs down road.”  “Leaps off cliff.”   “Cuddles crocodile.” Whatever is pertinent for this particular story.  Then I lay them out on the board.  Do I have enough scenes to fill the book?  Do I have too many?

With a few strokes of a highlighter, I can mark off how many spreads I use to introduce my character and story problem and the number of spreads devoted to each attempt to solve the problem.  There are three attempts, aren’t there?  And a denouement?

Is it really worth the time to play with all of this before I write a single word?

You bet!   When I storyboard a piece first, I can often rough it out in an hour or less.  It won’t be brilliant but I have something solid to work with until I can make it brilliant.  That’s where my dummy comes in.

–SueBE

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: