Tuesday Tip: 91 Weedy Weak Words to YANK from Your Story

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91 Weedy Weak Words to
YANK from Your Story

We’ve all heard the advice to SHOW not TELL with our writing.  BUT… How can you do it? What do you look for? Why does it really matter?

I like to use the example of  SHOWING to that of GARDENING.

weed.01WHY DOES IT REALLY MATTER?weed.01

Have you ever started gardening. You stake out a space and prepare the earth. You make sure everything is just so. We do this with our writing too. We have our laptops/notepads handy. We have read books, taken classes, attended conferences, joined critique groups… everything to get our space ready to write.

Then we plant. But do you stop there? NO. You water. You fertilize. You talk to your budding little sprouts. Same for our writing. We continue to learn and write and grow. And yes, I talk to my characters too. :p

Do you stop there though? I hope not. The grass will grow up. Weeds will also pop through the soil. If you’re not careful, it will begin to choke out the plants you have so tenderly grown. With our writing we can become lazy too. We can fall on words that say what mean, but don’t convey what we want to our readers. These are our weedy, weak words. They will choke out our story line, making our reader’s minds wander and potentially leave the story.

We do all this to have a beautiful flower bed. Or delicious fruits and veggies. OR to have a great story that one day will be published.

weed.02WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?weed.02

Weeds can be tricky. Vines will creep and wind around a plant. Stickers will blend in with a plant’s leaf shape. SHOOT! Some weeds are actually pretty. You have to keep a sharp eye out, move some leaves around, and look in between spaces. With our writing those weedy words can be tricky too. They can hide behind well thought out sentences and characters. They can act like they are helping a verb, but they are really dragging down the text, giving your readers a vague description of what is really happening.

HINT:   A lot of weedy words end in “-ly”. You know… quickly, softly, hardly.   😉

weed.04HOW CAN YOU DO IT?weed.04

So what to do? What to do? If you have a garden, mow the grass. Get on your hands and knees and pull those dang weeds. Yes, get down in the dirt. Get dirty. Get sweaty. Yank and pull those over-grown nuisances out! Same with our writing. Really dissect your story, every paragraph, each sentence. Once again, we have to get down and dirty. Really dig into our writing and wrestle those buggers out!

But never fear. You CAN do this! Think of really wanting your reader to see how your character is acting. Here’s a great example:

He slowly walked to the door.
vs
He trudged to the door.
He crept to the door.

He quickly ran to the door.
vs
He zipped to the door.
He flew to the door.

See? The bottom two sentences give clear, crisp details of what your character is doing. Whereas the first sentences… well, who knows? To help you out, I’m attaching a word doc you can download that has 91 weedy words/phrases that you can almost always eliminate from your story and make it more vibrant for your readers minds.

WEEDY WEAK WORDS LIST

Here’s to no more weedy words!

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
What do you do to help improve your writing?
Do you know of any more weedy words to add to the list?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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5 Ways to Deal with Rejection

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5 Ways to Deal with Rejection

As a writer there comes a time when we all hear the “R” word. It’s an ugly word and let’s face it, we don’t want to hear it. That or the “P” word either. Fine! I’ll say them… Rejection & Pass. *sigh*

So it is inevitable we will all get these. So how do you deal with it?

Sure, sure. Crying helps. So does throwing a righteous fit. But to get anything accomplished you need to move foward.

  1. Step back
    I know I said move forward.  😉  Take a minute (or a day or two or three) to distance yourself from your work. By giving yourself a time out, you help break some of the emotional ties you have. This will help you see things more clearly too.
  2. Look at it objectively
    After #1, you should be able to see your ms with new eyes. Take into consideration who said what. Are they an agent? Editor? Someone you have high respect for? None of the above? All this will determine how much weight what they have said will carry you through to your revisions.
  3. Second opinion
    Seriously. Get several opinions. I have at least three people read over my ms. AT LEAST! Then if more than one is pointing something out, you have more reason to consider what they are saying and why.
  4. Write, rewrite, revise
    Move those fingers. Sometimes the best way to get over rejection is to write. Write something new. Rewrite the whole ding-dang story if you feel the need. Or revise on what people have said. Just get them fingers flying.
  5. Reward
    Yes, REWARD YOURSELF for rejections!!!!!!! You have taken a big step. You’ve gotten your work out there and you are earning your stripes! Celebrate the victories. Each. And. Every. One. Of. THEM! *hint, hint* Chocolate is great!

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know how you deal with rejection?
Let me know about your victories!!! Celebrate!

 

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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Feature Friday: ReviMo with Meg Miller

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I WILL REVISE!

Here we are… A NEW YEAR!

Do you have a manuscript or a couple or a few or several manuscripts that need some serious revising?
But that feels like work?
You rather play with the shiny NEW idea?

Pish! Posh! Roll up your sleeves and lets let some red ink fly!

I’m challenging you! Yes, YOU! to submit this year. B-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-t you have to get those crappy first drafts into shape! What better way than to participate in a writing challenge?

ENTER:

Meg Miller

Hi, Meg!
Thanks for stopping by ‘a writers blog by Tracey M. Cox’ and sharing your writing challenge! Here are some Q&A Meg and I had the other day and I wanted to share:

Q1: Name of writing challenge?
A: ReviMo 2015

Q2: Do you have a website?
A: http://www.megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/revimo-2015.html

Q3: Date of sign-ups?
A: Last day to sign up 1/11/2015 at 10 pm cst

Q4: Date writing challenge runs?
A: January 11-17, 2015

Q5: Why did you come up with this challenge?
A: In 2013, I had just completed Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee; I was gearing up to do to Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo; and I’d been writing a rough draft monthly for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge. I thought, I need to revise all these (crappy, oh so crappy) stories, *Lightbulb* there should be a revision challenge!! So… after coming up with a name for it, inspired by the other great challenges, I set to planning. And in January 2014, I hosted the first ReviMo with help from inspiring guest bloggers and generous sponsors. There have also been many Pre-ReviMo and Petite ReviMo with great posts from writers.
I had a thought at one point that surely there was no new way to talk about revising, but every time I receive someone’s post I am amazed at how our unique perspectives bring a new and fresh take on revising! Which gives me hope for writing, there are new picture book ideas, you just need a fresh perspective!

Q6: What do you hope people will gain from this challenge?
A: I get writer’s block occasionally and I know it’s because I start taking myself and (add stuffy accent here) *my writing* WAY too seriously. I’d like ReviMo to inspire people to play with revisions. This quote from Anne Lamott captures the thought perfectly: “So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use up lots of paper. Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.”

Q7: What else would you like to include?
A: Check out our wonderful guest bloggers for ReviMo 2015:
http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/revimo-2015-guest-bloggers.html
And not only that, but our lovely sponsors have donated some fabulous prizes: http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_7.html
AND (can this get any better??) if you are a ReviMo participant you are eligible for these special offers: http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/p/revimo-2015-special-offers.html

 

Thanks Meg!!!
How awesome is that! Not only do you get some of your work closer to submission-ready material, you also have a chance at some amazing prizes. I have already signed up!

Click on the logo above or ~ HERE ~ to sign up for Meg’s ReviMo challenge. You have 2 more days to get in!!!!

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know what you think of writing challenges.
Are you going to participate in ReviMo?
What are some challenges you are going to participate in this year?
Are there some you would like to see highlighted here?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

*     Did you enjoy this post? Feel free to LIKE, SHARE, and COMMENT ON THIS POST.
Easy, peasy buttons found  below.
**   Don’t miss one post! Email sign-ups are over here —>
*** Sign up for my  N E W S L E T T E R ! I will be sharing writing challenges and other tidbits related to the kidlit
industry. Click  ~HERE~  to be directed to my Newsletter sign-up page.

#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

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9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

 

Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.

 DON’T FORGET:

You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 13: Writing Your Way To A Spark by: Kris Dinnison

 

Summer SparksWriting Your Way To A Spark!
by Kris Dinnison

 

Ah summer! Sunlight that lasts until long past bedtime, irresistible afternoons of lingering in the warm grass, cooling off with a swim in a local lake. Milkshakes, BBQs, Drive-ins, bike rides…

But where does the writing life fit into this equation? How do we live in the moment and still make time to write about it?

I would love to say I have the secret to this dilemma, but I am, alas, still working towards writerly perfection in this area.

What I do have to offer is three of the most important pieces of writing advice I have ever received. They are not revelatory, they are not even particularly seasonal, but they are, in my experience, always, always true.

  1. Write: “BIC-HOP (Butt in chair-Heart on Page)” (Jane Yolen)

I know, it’s easy to say you don’t have time, or your kids are out of school, or your partner is on vacation, or the sun is shining, or the sky is blue, so you can’t write. But there is a long list of writers who had way more valid excuses than you who found the time to write anyway. William Carlos Williams was a full time doctor during his whole writing career. Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company. Virginia Woolf founded and ran a Publishing Company. The difference between them and most aspiring writers? They wrote.

But the second half of that advice is just as important. Yolen advises writers to let whatever mix of emotions and experiences that are true for them appear in the writing. Maybe not as a literal account of those experiences, but the idea is to write something emotionally true. Especially in writing for children. Otherwise what’s the point, really?

  1. Shitty first drafts: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” (Anne Lamott)

This is literally the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I am a born perfectionist, completely stymied by my own impossible standards and fear of other people’s judgement. The only way I wrote my novel was by telling myself nobody would ever see the writing. In other words, I gave myself the gift of a shitty first draft. (And in my case a few more shitty drafts as well). You can always revise, but you can’t revise what you haven’t written.

  1. Finish something: “You have to finish things. That’s what you learn from; you learn by finishing things.” (Neil Gaiman)

This little tidbit is huge for me. I have lots of little ideas and starts and bits that I get very excited about and then just peter out after a few paragraphs. But committing to finishing something forces me to give it some form. Once I’ve given it a rough shape beginning to end, then I can wade into the tougher territory of the writing process: revision.

But still: it’s summer!” you say. And I hear you loud and clear. Don’t worry, Neil Gaiman also has other advice for writers: “Go for walks. Read a lot & outside your comfort zone. Stay interested. Daydream.” So when you can’t bring yourself to follow the first three pieces of advice, follow that last one. That way you can have your summer and write about it too.

Kris Dinnison

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Kris Dinnison is a former teacher and librarian. She now chases her dream of being a writer.  She lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, daughter (when she’s not off gallivanting in Europe), two cats, and a labradoodle named Charlie. She likes to read and hike but rarely at the same time.

FIND KRIS DINNISON:

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Writing prompt:

Make a list of at least ten of your favorite summer activities in any order. Circle numbers three, five, and 10. Now write a scene about a character who is terrified of doing one of those three activities.

Kirs will be giving away your choice of one:

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

OR

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.

Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Kris’ post!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 11: Burning Down the House by Donna Earnhardt

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Burning Down the House (aka Revision)
By Donna Earnhardt

 

In 1958, George Plimpton interviewed Ernest Hemingway and asked about his rewriting process. This is part of that interaction:

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

 

HEMINGWAY:  It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

 

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

 

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

— The Art of Fiction No. 21,

Paris Review, Spring 1958, No. 18

 

It is my opinion that revision can be just as hard as writing the original story. And sometimes, even harder.

 

The Process

There’s this thing I do that drives my kids batty enough to grow wings and hang upside down in caves.

I don’t make them dissect Hemingway’s work or memorize Shakespeare over the summer. I don’t make them scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush or wash their clothes by hand in the creek.

So what is the terrible, horrible, no good thing that I do?

I ask my kids to listen to all manuscript revisions. It’s part of my process. And they usually indulge me. I pay them in chocolate, so it’s a win-win. But does it really help? Yes… and no.

My early process looks something like this:

1. Write part of the manuscript, reworking it as I go.

2. Finally finish it. Then shuffle a few more things around.

3. Read it aloud to my kids.

4. Watch their faces, then have them give feedback

5. Rewrite parts that were not received as they should have been. Rearranging what I can.

6. Reread it to the kids.

7. Note their giggles… and their silence.

8. Feed them chocolate.

9. Promise I won’t read it but a couple more times.

10. Tweak again, then read it aloud one last time

11. START TRUE/DEEP REVISIONS.

Notice that my true revisions don’t start until after the early revision. And if I’m being honest with myself, my early revision is more like rearrangement.

Rearrangement of my manuscript is the equivalent of moving around my couch, lamp and table in my house. Same stuff, different place. Maybe I get rid of the junk on top of the entertainment center. It feels a lot cleaner. But it’s the same ol’, same ol’.  In my manuscript, (just like in my house), moving stuff around happens all the time. So that can be part of the process of revision. But it is NOT true revision.

My true revisions don’t start until after I’ve already written a rough draft, read it aloud a few times and rearranged some stuff. True revision looks like more like a new couch, newly painted walls and new rugs. (And maybe a few demolished walls!)

Truly, there are days that my revision looks like gutting the whole house. I might salvage the beginning, middle and end. But even those are subject to the recycling pile. I’ve even considered burning the whole thing down and starting from scratch. Unless, of course, I have a perfect first draft.

But let me be honest… that’s never happened.

So while I’m gutting my masterpiece, what are some things that help me work through the process without banging my head against a newly painted wall?

· I ask my critique buddies for honest (and sometimes brutal) critiques. They can see things that I am temporarily blind to. I get a type of “see-sickness”. They help bring my vision back in focus.

· I am willing to hear with my head AND my heart that my story has parts that stink. If my characters are shallow, I need to know. If my plot is weak, I need to strengthen it. If my premise is tired, it’s my job to fix it. I don’t need to waste precious time trying to defend my manuscript. Either it works, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I need to make it work.

· I read my work backwards. Yes, it sounds weird. But reading the storyline backwards helps me see things that might be out of whack. Reading backwards also helps visualize timeline issues and plot holes.

· If I’m writing a picture book in rhyme, I try to rewrite it in prose. I might end up sticking with the rhyming version, but putting it in prose helps me see where plot issues might be. It also helps me determine if rhyming or non-rhyming is the best vehicle for the story.

· I get rid of characters that don’t move the story along. Even if I love a character, he (or she) might serve only one purpose – such as comedic relief. I can attribute that one characteristic to a more important character, especially if I find out one of my characters is shallow. This could help give that character depth.

· I make sure the beginning, middle and end are solid. If the first page of a book doesn’t grab a reader, the rest of the book might not get the chance to redeem itself. The beginning needs to be unforgettable. The ending needs to make me sad the book is over, but still be satisfying. The middle of the story? It’s like the kitchen. It supplies the reader with the “meat”. Without it, the readers are hungry and angry — hangry. And we know that never ends well.

· I get rid of situations that aren’t appropriate for the story. For instance, in Being Frank, the “carnival scene” was once a school dance. But as my wonderful editor pointed out, this book was aimed at 3-7 year olds. They don’t have to deal with school dances for at least a few more years.

· I make sure my big girl panties are on. This business is tough. We can’t settle for “okay”. We can’t settle for “it’s better than what’s on the bookshelves now”. That is a slippery slope that leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity is not what agents or editors are looking for. I am not suggesting losing your vision in exchange for someone else’s. But we need to be willing to re-vision our story to make the vision come to life.

Some great go-to resources for help with revision:

1. Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell

2. 9-1-1 help for Revising your Picture book by Cynthea Liu http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/revision/revision-9-1-1-for-fiction-picture-books/

3. Second Sight — General Help for all writers of children’s books by Cheryl Klein http://cherylklein.com/second-sight/

 

One last thing… I ran across an interview that Kelly Barnhill gave on John Brown’s blog. She makes a good point that is worth printing and pasting on our computers…

“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.”  — Kelly Barnhill

(for more of her interview, check it out here: http://johndbrown.com/2011/02/interview-with-author-kelly-barnhill/)

 

p.s. And if you’re wondering, I read this post aloud to my oldest kiddo. She’s now demanding chocolate.

 DONNA EARNHARDT
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Bio: Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani (Flashlight press, 2012). When Donna isn’t homeschooling her three children, chauffeuring them from place to place, or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family (while simultaneously keeping an eye out for Bigfoot) or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
DONNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:
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FIND DONNA:

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Writing Prompt:
Hi everyone. Tracey here.
One writing exercise I like to do is called scenes from the hat. I gather different characters in one pile, different problems in another one, and setting in a third pile. Place your character pile into a hat, swish around, and pull one. Remove the pile and do the same with the problem and setting piles. Now look at your character, his or her problem, and their setting… Now GO!

Characters
King
Chipmunks
Girl
Boy
Farmer
Skater

Problem
Heir to thorn
Winter
Food
Broken ?
Scared
________

Setting
Forest
Beach
City
Moon
Country
Store

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks. DAY 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar

First, let me apologize. My laptop isn’t charging properly and I’m formatting this post from my tablet. Please excuse any and all formatting problems. Now, onto Tara’s post:

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Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books
by Tara Lazar

 

No, I didn’t mean for the title of this blog to rhyme. Sadly, I don’t write in rhyme. So if I don’t bang out a jaunty beat with fancy-schmancy stanzas, how I do inject FUN into my manuscripts?

With my word choice. (Choices? Choice? Whatevs. You get what I mean.)

We writers hear a lot about the importance of voice, but what exactly does “having a unique voice” mean?

Let’s ask some of our favorite cartoon characters.

“What’s up, Doc?”

“D’oh!”

“Curse you, Perry the Platypus!”

 

Now, did Bugs say, “How are you doing?” Nope. That’s too boring and expected, right? Anyone can say that. But the moment you hear, “What’s up, Doc?” you KNOW who is speaking (and crunching on a carrot).

 

Voice is all about your word choice. (Darn, there goes that pesky rhyme again.) And when I say word choice, I don’t just mean how your characters speak. I mean the entire linguistic tempo of your tale.

 

See? That was word choice right there. I could have said “rhythm of your story” but instead I chose to alliterate with “tempo of your tale”. That’s far more entertaining, right? Your tongue gets to tango with the t’s.

 

Besides alliteration, there are other trusty techniques to try:

· Onomatopoeia—BAM! BASH! KA-BOOM!

· Internal Rhyme—“A monster threesome is more gruesome than a twosome.” (from my book THE MONSTORE—hey, maybe I do rhyme!)

· Repetitive Refrain—a phrase that’s repeated so your readers can anticipate its appearance and join in the read-aloud. Instead of a character catchphrase, this is your book’s catchphrase.

 

Also check out word tools, like the book “L is for Lollygag: Quirky Words for a Clever Tongue” or my own list of 200+ cool words [link to http://taralazar.com/2014/06/09/list-of-200-fun-cool-and-interesting-words/%5D.

Contrary to popular belief, you CAN utilize difficult words in picture books, as long as you don’t add too many and cause your reader to stumble and give up. The placing of the word in context helps teach it. And if it’s a word like hootenanny, it’s a heckuva lotta fun to say, too.

I always keep a thesaurus handy when I’m writing. If I stick in a boring word like RUN, I can always go back and consider DART, SCAMPER or SCURRY instead.

(And if you have an iPad, try the Wordflex app. It’s a visual thesaurus that lets you climb word trees and branches with a swipe of your finger.)

Remember these things when your language feels too common, as if anyone could write what you did. You want your manuscript to stand out, to be remembered, to be irresistible.

You want an editor to say,  “Sufferin’ succotash! What a story!”

Tara Lazar

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Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous PICTURE BOOKS featuring magical places that adults never find.

Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, is available now from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Her other BOOKS coming soon are:

  • I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S 2015)
  • LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, 2015)
  • 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, 2016)
  • NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, 2016)

Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

5 Unusual Facts About Tara:

And the not so unusual stuff…

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Tara loves children’s BOOKS. Her goal is to create books that children love.

She writes PICTURE BOOKS and middle grade novels. She’s written short stories for Abe’s Peanut and is featured in Break These Rules, a book of life-lesson ESSAYS FOR teens, edited by author Luke Reynolds.

Tara created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). PiBoIdMo is held on this blog every November. In 2013, PiBoIdMo featured 1,150 participants and over 100,000 web hits.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 and has permanently lost feeling in her feet and legs. She has an inspirational story to share about overcoming a devastating illness to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara can speak to groups big and small, young and old—just contact her for more information.

She’s a member of SCBWI and speaks at conferences and events regarding picture books, brainstorming techniques, and social media for authors (backed by 20 years experience in internet marketing, from the time when gophers and usenet trumped the web). Her former career was in high-tech marketing and PR.

She also teaches for The Writer’s Circle Workshops.

Tara is a life-long New Jersey resident. She lives in Somerset County with her husband and two young daughters. If they had a dog, it would be a small white fluffy thing named Schluffy.

 

Tara is the author of:
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FIND TARA:

Website/Blog
Facebook
Twitter

Writing Prompt:

Hey everyone! Tracey here. For today’s writing prompt I thought it would be fun to give you a set of words. Choose at least three to place in your story.

sparked
ka-pow
crackle
juicy
splash
bounce
sun
fire works
search
skreeeeeee

Happy writing!

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know what type of lyrical language, linguistic lingo, or catch phrases get your attention.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

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