#SummerSparks Day 11 – Pieces

Summer Sparks Day 11

Pieces
by Tracey M. Cox

Jigsaw_Puzzle.svg.medDo you like putting together puzzles? I do. You start with a bajillion pieces, all scattered before you. Then, before you know it, you notice some of them are similar. Maybe one side is flat. These pieces, the colors all match. Or this group can make a face. So you begin to group them together. The pieces neatly fit here and there. Over there and over there. Look at that piece. It can go over with the first group.

Well we do the same thing as writers. We come up with a great idea. We are excited as we dump it out before us, but with this one idea things can get jumbled. So we…

1. Come up with a character. Every story has a character. So what makes yours special? Do they have super abilities? Are they fearless? Maybe a wild imagination. You can also determine fears. Name your character and have a conversation with them. Find out their likes and dislikes. Do they have certain mannerisms that spill over in how they react with people? Coming up with you main character can be as complicated as you want. They can be a boy or a girl, an animal or an alien, or something combined. Nailing down your character will help your story come together.

Jigsaw_puzzle_piece.svg.med

2. We need a setting! Where does this story take place? You can have it take place in a back yard. Maybe it’s on a farm where there are emus. Or you can be in the city and have the noise and hub-bub of the city racing by. Or you can be in the park and have a picnic or be there for a Little League game. OR you can be in outer space blasting around, searching for aliens. Maybe your character is the alien and you are exploring Earth and trying to figure out Earthlings. The main thing is every story needs to take place somewhere. Make sure your readers will be able to visualize where you are seeing.

jigsaw_red_16.svg.med3. Challenge, every story has challenges. Ahh. The problem. The DREADED problem. So what does you character have to over come? A new sibling? Trying to get rid of a dragon! Maybe there is something they fear, like heights or talking in front of people. What if there is a bully who makes fun of them. Problems are like our characters. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they challenge our characters and make them grow in a way that will leave the reader rooting for them and want to read your book again and again.

jigsaw_green_05.svg.med4. Backstory. Let’s not forget the juicy details. Some of this information won’t every appear in your story. BUT knowing the backstory of your character and their challenges, along with the setting in which it takes place can be very important to how you character will react. Does you child have a family? What about brothers or sisters? Do they really love a certain food and HAVE to have it with every meal? What about clothes… how do they dress? What do they like to wear. Most things don’t make the final edit, but for me make it easier to write my story when I know the details.

Now you may sort and piece together you story differently, and that’s okay. There is no formula on piecing together a great story. Mix it up see what catches you eye. Before you know it all those patterns and colors will come together and make a great story.

pattern-puzzle-jigsaw-1.svg.med

 

SPARK:

So lets create some pieces. Grab a piece of paper and fold it into thirds long ways. Your first column will be character. Your second column will be setting. Your third problem will be challenge.

Go down each column and write ideas down for each. For character you may come up with: clown, fish, bat, boy, girl, dog, cupcake, car. For setting you may come up with: city, farm, table, school, pond, city pool. For challenge you may come up with: bully, heights, waiting, missing, water, disease, broken. You can use my ideas and expand on them, if you like. Now cut them up into individual pieces. In separate piles, gather together each ‘piece’ of your story. Give a good mix and randomly pick out a piece from each pile. No matter how crazy or odd the combination may be, come up with an idea.

Repeat for new ideas! These pieces, unlike a normal puzzle, are inner changeable.   🙂

About Tracey:

Tracey2

Tracey M. Cox has been writing professionally since 2000. She is traditionally published with six picture books out. This Summer, her 7th picture book, The Children at the Playground, will be published by Xist Publishing.
Tracey is the host of Summer Sparks author, platform building consultant, and offers a critique service. Read more about her at www.traceymcox.com.

LINKS:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Blog
PB Reviews

#GIVEAWAY 2# <—  Yes, #2!

Tracey will be giving away a one hour platform consult at the end of the challenge. COMMENT ON THIS POST to qualify for any give away. *you will need to comment on every give away post*.
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:::LEAVE A COMMENT:::
Let me know, are you participating in this years #SummerSparks writing challenge?
How did your puzzle making go?

 

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2015 Summer Sparks post:

  1. Family Celebration by Tracey M. Cox
  2. Back Where I Come From by Tracey M. Cox
  3. The Benefits of Playdough: Molding your PB Idea Into A Story by Donna L. Martin
  4. Go Jump In a Lake by Tracey M. Cox
  5. Take a Vacay! by Tracey M. Cox
  6. How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day
  7. Don’t You Know that You Are a Shooting Star? by Tracey M. Cox
  8. Sun Burst by Tracey M. Cox
  9. Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller
  10. Get Out! by Tracey M. Cox
  11. Pieces by Tracey M. Cox
  12. Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson
  13. Do the Twist by Tracey M. Cox
  14. Celebrate! by Tracey M. Cox

Feature Friday: ReFoReMo hosted by Carrie Charley Brown

ReFoReMo2ReFoReMo
Reading for Research Month

We know we love to write. We know we need to learn to write well to be published. So how do we go about to learning? There are classes we can take. Webinars we can watch. Speakers to listen to.

Another great way to learn?  R-E-A-D! Yes, read! By submersing yourself into your genre, you will see what works and what doesn’t. Read the classics to see what has carried them this far. Read the mid-list to see what can make you stay steady. Read the newly published to see what is on the pulse of publishing and how your writing can fit in.

By reading a combination of publishing years you can begin to see the patterns of publishing. Things that are considered ‘classics’ wouldn’t be published now. Stories that are coming out this year might not have been published 10 years ago. Use the current books as mentor text. You will see word count, topics, and trends that are similar and will help direct you to better writing.

Carrie Charley Brown came up with a genius of a plan to help writers collaborate together and learn from each other with mentoring texts. Her and I were talking the other day, and she graciously answered some of my questions:

 

Q1: Name of writing challenge?

Reading for Research Month, or ReFoReMo

Q2: Do you have a website?

Of course!  You can find more information at:

http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/reforemo

Q3: Date of sign-ups?

February 15-March 1

Q4: Date writing challenge runs?

March 1-31

Q5: Why did you come up with this challenge?

I’ve grown as a writer by participating in challenges such as PiBoIdMo, the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and ReviMo. At the same time, I read a lot of picture books as research tools and I wanted to share that inspiration with others.  

Q6: What do you hope people will gain from this challenge?

Guest author-educators will allow us to step into their shoes as they use picture books as tools. My hope is that picture book writers will gain a deeper understanding of how to use mentor texts to grow as writers. I also hope the consistent practice of reading picture books will immerse them into the form they write.

Q7: What else would you like to include?

Sometimes people don’t realize that fiction takes research, too. I write mainly picture book fiction and could not imagine writing without first understanding what is constantly being released in our market. Writers need to stick together and share. ReFoReMo will allow us to be there for one another in both fiction and nonfiction.

 

About:

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Carrie Charley Brown

Carrie Charley Brown juggles ideas every day as a children’s writer, teacher, blogger, and mom. She is the founder of the 2015 ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month. You can learn more about Carrie’s writing journey, her KidLit Services, ReFoReMo, and many other amazing authors and resources, at her blogsite Carrie On… Together!

 

Thanks Carrie!
I am also honored to be one of the Author-Educators for the challenge.   🙂

Hope you all will join us. Click on the link, banner, or ~ HERE~ to take you over there.

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know what you think about this post.
Have you read any great picture books lately?
Do you know of any writing challenges you would like to see featured here?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!
~t

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*** Sign up for my  N E W S L E T T E R ! I will be sharing writing challenges and other
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#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 15 BONUS POST: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Summer SparksWhat Songs Rock Your World?
by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Music can be a powerful tool in our lives, and in our writing. Think about it. We’re always singing or dancing at special times– birthdays, weddings, graduations, funerals. Music can make us feel things that words alone cannot. It wasn’t until my last two books that I realized just how much it could enhance my own writing and how much I loved singing in my own life. While researching a book on women’s suffrage set in California I ran across a suffrage verse written to the well-known tune “My Country Tis of Thee.” My story morphed into an historical fiction picture book, so I had my two girl characters sing this verse as they marched in a suffrage parade. And when I did readings for my book when it was published, I asked the crowd to sing along with me. It also got me thinking about whether other protest groups had written verses to this song.

I am a NF history geek, so for years I had been researching protestors from many races and religions who had stood up for equal rights throughout our country’s history. Had other groups written verses to this song, I wondered? Sure enough they had and before I knew it, I had uncovered a terrific structure for a nonfiction book that I had been struggling with for a long time. Singing the verses at readings and getting others, especially younger people, singing, too, and writing their own verses to the song, has been great fun. Two choirs here in Spokane recorded the verses from the book, and it gives me great delight just to listen to them on my web site.

But enough about me. This is your month to come up with new writing ideas and bring new energy to your work. Since I am the last post of this Summer Sparks series, here is a list of suggestions of how to bring music into your writing life. A prompt follows the list.

 

  • If you listen to music while writing, come up with your writing anthem this month or even an entire play list to get your creativity pumping every day. I need absolute quiet, but before and after the work, a musical interlude brings energy.
  • Think about a manuscript you are working on. Where could you musical details in the story line? Snippets of a song, a character who plays an instrument, a character’s flashback brought on by a song. Even if you write nonfiction, music can be a part of a biography or event.
  • Because music brings me joy and uses another part of my brain, I have decided to join a women’s choir next fall. How about you? What activity, musical or other, could feed another part of your brain and make it stronger when you return to writing?
  • Opera singers use a term called tessitura (Italian for “texture”), to define the most comfortable range for a singer’s voice. Take a look at some of your manuscripts. Has the voice in each one found its tessitura? Or is there more work to be done?

 

Writing Prompt:

Make a list of ten memories from your life triggered by or focused around music. Such as driving along in the summertime listening to the Beach Boys, your worst birthday party, the song at a relative’s funeral. Free write on one of these memories for five minutes. Try to include other senses besides sound – sight, taste, touch, and smell.

Now study your list again and next to each memory, write down a scene you could build into one of your writing projects.

 

As we close up Summer Sparks, let’s sing out for Tracey Cox for her inventive program to encourage us all to dig deeper and find the music in our stories. Thanks, Tracey.

 

Claire Rudolf Murphy

Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

 

Claire is the author of:
My Country Tis Of Thee
&
Wild Garden JKT

FIND CLAIRE:

Website
Blog
Facebook

 

:::LEAVE A COMMENT:::
Do you use music to find inspiration?
What background noise (if any) do you like to have?
What other things do you use that hasn’t been discussed?

 

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 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill

 

Summer SparksInspiration Station
by Susanna Hill

 

 

We’ve all been there.

Staring at that blank page, watching our precious writing time tick away, unable to come up with

One.

         Single.

                      Word.

. . . never mind a whole story!

Grrr!!!

Doesn’t the muse realize we’re on a schedule?

Our day jobs demand attention.

There is laundry and vacuuming to be done.

The kids will be home soon.

There will be ballet and scouts and flute lessons.

The guinea pig cage is due to be cleaned.

There will be homework and dinner and baths and bedtime.

If we’re going to write, this is our chance!

Think, darn it!

But somehow, the harder we try, the tighter our brains lock up until we’d be hard-pressed to write down a reasonable grocery list.

We all lead busy lives.  Our writing time is precious and we can’t afford to waste it.  So how do we get the words flowing when they seem determined to stay dammed up?  Where do we go for inspiration?

 

Inspiration Station, of course!

 

Check out the destination board for story sparkers of all kinds!

 

Track 1: Departing for the Recollection Connection

Mine your memories:

  • Think back on your own experiences. What are some of the amazing/fun/scary/thought-provoking/silly/disturbing etc. things that happened to you when you were little? Make a list. It will be there for you to refer to when you need a topic.
  • What important people or relationships would your childhood not have been the same without?
  • What sports/activities/interests/hobbies did you participate in?  (Little League, ballet, piano lessons, archery, science camp, tae kwon do, etc…)  Did you like them?  Hate them?  Learn anything valuable about yourself from them?
  • What family events do you look back on?  Camping trips? Family vacations to Europe or the beach or the Grand Canyon?  Holiday happenings and the surrounding traditions?  Weddings or family reunions?  Moving to a new home?

 

Mine your children’s/grandchildren’s childhoods and experiences:

  • What kinds of things have your kids or grandkids gone through?  What have they triumphed at?  Achieved? What have they struggled with?  Coped with?  Overcome?
  • If you’re a teacher, pastor, doctor/nurse, or other professional who works with children, what kinds of experiences have your students, patients, clients, etc. had?

 

Track 2: Departing for Observation Station

All day, every day, you have the opportunity to keep your eyes and ears open.

  • What do you see on your way to the grocery store?  A robin’s nest?  A road being paved?  A child wobbling along on a two-wheeler for the first time?  A stray cat?  A street musician?  A spooky old house?  A leaf shaped like a star?
  • What do you hear on your way to work?  Two children arguing over a seat on the bus?  A mother explaining to her toddler why he can’t eat candy for breakfast?  A little girl talking to the pet hamster in a cage on her lap?  The rich song of a saxophone from just inside the subway station?
  • How would a child see the things you’re looking at? or interpret the things you hear?  How could these little pieces of life become a picture book?  What new, fresh angle could you look at them from? What could you combine them with?

 

Track 3:  Departing for Communication Station with connections to Bookburg, TV Town, Movieville, Musicport, and News Street

Inspiration is all around us in the work of other creatives.

  • The stories we read in books, or watch on TV and at the movies, are all potential sparks for our own ideas.  What would we have done differently?  How would the story have worked if this happened instead of that?  What if the main character had been a trombone-playing giraffe instead of a rebellious teenager?  What if the story had taken place on Mars instead of in New Jersey? Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are good sources here.
  • Song lyrics and music can also inspire us through the associations they have and the moods they evoke.
  • News articles in the paper, in magazines, and online are a steady source of potential inspiration, for example, the story of Owen And Mzee, the hippo and the tortoise who became inseparable friends after the Indonesian tsunami, or Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world.

 

Track 4:  Departing for Location Station

Places we visit can inspire us.

  • quaint New England fishing villages
  • the Rocky Mountains
  • the beach
  • Central Park
  • the San Diego Zoo
  • the Mississippi River
  • New Orleans
  • the Swiss Alps
  • the redwood forest
  • Norwegian fjords
  • a General Store that smells like licorice and orange soda
  • the circus
  • the Museum of Natural History
  • a dusty used book shop
  • Grandma’s homey kitchen, etc…

All of them have stories to tell, or could be the home for a story you have to tell.

 

Track 5:  Departing for Population Station with a quick stop at Occupation Station

People we meet/see are full of inspiration!

  • a boy in New York City wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap
  • a girl with one red knee sock and one striped knee sock
  • a dog riding on the front seat of a taxi cab
  • a postmistress who gives out lollipops
  • a school bus driver with purple hair and a tiny dragon tattoo behind his left ear
  • a nurse with roller skate sneakers
  • a girl who only speaks in rhyme, etc…

Different jobs people do can also give rise to ideas.

  • How do people become sanitation workers, tugboat captains, crane operators, or window washers?
  • How could someone with an unusual occupation fit into a story? Or BE a story?

 

Track 6:  Departing for Imagination Station

One of the most powerful idea generators is our own imagination.

Play the “what if?” game.

  • What if a shark and a train had a competition to see which one was better.  Oh, wait.  That’s been done 🙂
  • What if a dinosaur came to dinner?
  • What if it was upside down day?
  • What if a bear got on the school bus?
  • What if you found a magic penny?
  • What if your mom was a spy?
  • What if a kid became town mayor?
  • What if the family dog could talk? (Uh… I guess that’s been done too )
  • What if ponies grew on trees?

Whatever you can think up, there are lots of ideas here!

 

Track 7:  Departing for Creation Station

Some days, none of the other stops on the line are going to work.  Maybe your toddler was up all night teething, or you had a fight with your spouse over whose turn it was to make sure the garbage can lids were on tight enough to keep the raccoons out (no, of course that has never happened at our house ).  On those days, try one of these tried and true methods for getting words flowing:

  • Other people’s work – type out a picture book you love.  The act of typing will get your synapses firing and before you know it, your own words will be flowing.
  • Start writing anything – what you’ve done so far today – what you hope to do this summer – your opinion about a movie you saw or a book you read recently that you liked/didn’t like – what you would say to someone you’re currently mad at or worried about – a list of flower names or Crayola crayon colors or birds or animals – a recipe for vegetable soup – anything – just start writing.  You’ll be surprised at what might suddenly start to take shape in your brain.

Writing Prompts:

Need some actual writing prompts? Try one of these:

  • What is the saddest thing that happened to you when you were a child? Did you lose a grandparent? A pet? Have to move away from a beloved neighborhood or school?  Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.  Details of the time and place, who was there and how you felt.  Everything you can remember.
  • What moment in your childhood made you steaming, hopping, gut-busting mad?  Did your brother put a dent in your brand new bike? Did someone make fun of you when you couldn’t spell “environment” or solve a math equation? Did your best friend lie to you?  Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.  And remember that anger is usually a secondary emotion caused by hurt, insecurity, sadness, or fear.  Think about what the underlying cause of your anger was.
  • What is your fondest childhood memory? Something that made you deeply happy?  Or a moment when you achieved something or triumphed over something?  Or a moment you shared with someone special? Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.
  • What is something you saw or heard today that made you wonder? If it made you wonder, chances are it would make a child wonder. How can you make it into a story? Write about it for 10 minutes.
  • What news headline did you notice today that might make a good story? Write about it for 10 minutes, including what intrigues you, questions you might have to research a bit, and possible ways you could shape the story.
  • Spend 10 minutes writing about a place that has meaning to you. Describe it in as much detail as you can. If your reader were there, what would she see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? What activities might she do?
  • Spend 10 minutes describing an interesting person (real or imaginary) in as much detail as you can. What does he look like? What are his personality traits? What does he do? Who does he love? Make your description so vivid that your reader would recognize this person if she saw him on the street.
  • Ask yourself, “what if?” and think up the silliest, or the most outrageous, or the scariest, or the sweetest, or the most mysterious scenario you can.

 

Inspiration is all around us. You can find it – I promise!

All aboard! 

 

SUSANNA HILL

Susanna is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice),No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.  Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015.  She teaches Making Picture Book Magic, an online writing course, and is available for picture book manuscript critiques. She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs. 

SUSANNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:phyllis cover

CSWS

 

FIND SUSANNA:

Website
Blog
Face Book
Twitter
YouTube
Making Picture Book Magic (online writing course)
Picture Book MS Critique Service

 

Susanna is giving away one of her pbs!
Enter THIS RAFFLECOPTER HERE if you have qualified by being PRE-REGISTERED, completing the CHALLENGE, and take the PLEDGE.

 

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 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore

Summer Sparks

The Final Word
by Jodi Moore

 

There’s a lot of attention paid to first lines. As readers, we undoubtedly appreciate them. As writers, we strive for them, revising over and over until we capture the Very Best One. They can be the gateway between snagging an agent or editor (possibly a contract!) and a near miss.

An opening line not only serves as a first impression, it’s also a promise of what’s to come. You make a pact with your reader, one on which you must deliver. If the first line hooks readers, but there’s not enough substance to keep them there, they will abandon you.

Now, imagine the first line sparkles. The body builds to an exciting climax, captivating readers, imploring them to invest their time, their minds, their hearts. And then…the denouement. The readers’ takeaway. The promise fulfilled.

At least that’s the plan.

How many times have you immersed yourself in something completely…only to have the final line fall flat? You may feel underwhelmed. Disappointed. Even cheated.

In my opinion, a last line is just as – if not more – important than a first.

A good book is a feast for the soul: the first sentence analogous to a delectable appetizer; the body of the work, the sumptuous main course; the final line, a rich dessert. The closing words should melt on the tongue like a fine confection, offering just the right amount of substance, just the right amount of sweetness. But if the ice cream is granular, the cheesecake dry, and/or the coffee bitter, your guests leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

Not exactly the last, nor the lasting, impression you want.

So, how do you write a grand finale? Sadly, there’s no magic formula. As with any line, you first need to write it down. Then you must revise, revise, revise. When it’s the best you think it can be, share it with your critique buddies. What is their takeaway? Is it what you’d hoped? If not, repeat the process.

Of course, it helps to learn from the experts – those authors, and their works, that resonate with you. Here’s the fun part. You get to research, a.k.a. READ!

To get you started, I’ve offered some examples here. And while this blog series is predominantly for picture book writers, I’ve included samples from a variety of work to “illustrate” my point. A good line is a good line. Keep in mind that the final (punch) line in a picture book can be an illustration. Don’t be fooled. It is a line in every sense of the, um, non-word. A great example of this? Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos. Make sure you give your artists the freedom to make a statement.

 

Last lines can be:

  • Affirming: “I thought I could.” – The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper)
  • Inspiring: “We can all dance,” he said, “when we find music that we love.” – Giraffes Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae)
  • Empowering: “Let me tell you about it.” – Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
  • Reassuring: “Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him – and it was still hot.” – Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
  • Quiet: “Good night noises everywhere.” – Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown)
  • Loud: “When you join in, there’s so much noise I have to leave the room!” – Yip! Snap! Yap! (Charles Fuge)
  • Humorous Twist: “I suppose there’s another nightmare in my closet, but my bed’s not big enough for three.” – There’s A Nightmare In My Closet (Mercer Mayer)
  • Persuasive: “Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.” – The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)
  • Hopeful: “I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.” – Looking For Alaska (John Green)
  • Uplifting: “I turn away, knowing that I might never get to see Julie Murphy ever again. But I will know her for the rest of my life.” – One For The Murphys (Lynda Mullaly Hunt)
    (I know, I know. *hangs head in shame* I’ve presented two lines here. But when two lines are so dependent upon each other, featuring one without its mate would be, well, wrong.)
  • Cautionary: “And after dinner…we take the principal’s note very seriously.” – Too Much Glue (Jason Lefebvre)
  • Thought Provoking: “We’ll leave the kid with the raised up shoe; what do you think that kid should do?” – Hey, Little Ant (Phillip M. and Hannah Hoose)
  • Silly: “We were all having so much fun on the hill while Little Bo Peep got the blame.” – Little Bo Peep by the Sheep (as told to Priscilla Lamont)
  • Circular: “And chances are if he asks for a glass of milk, he’s going to want a cookie to go with it.” – If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (Laura Numeroff)
  • Rhythmic: “They rock and rock and rock to sleep.” –The Going To Bed Book (Sandra Boynton)
  • Sad (yes, even picture books can be poignant): “I watched the water ripple as the sun set through the maples and the chance of a kindness with Maya becoming more and more forever gone.” – Each Kindness (Jacqueline Woodson)
  • Happy: (Don’t we all love a happy ending?) “And everyone was all smiles. Especially you-know-who.” Nugget & Fang (Tammi Sauer)
  • Esoteric: “Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now.” – The Spectacular Now (Tim Thorp)
  • Infinite (promising new adventure): “And off she went.” – Cloudette (Tom Lichtenheld)
  • Universal: “All the world is all of us.” – All The World (Liz Garton Scanlon)

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. (Many thanks to my local library and bookstore for allowing me to camp out in their aisles and to my awesome writer buddy friends for chiming in with some of their favorites!)

What makes these lines so strong, so timeless, is that they leave us thinking about the book and its characters long after the last page is turned. They melt on our tongues, tickle our funny bones and/or nest in our hearts.

Look, I know how exciting it feels to see the finish line looming ahead. But writing isn’t a race. It’s a journey. There’s no need to rush. Savor those last strides to the end. Chill for a bit. Have some chocolate. Let things marinate. Observe what’s around you. Check with trusted readers to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. Then, when you’re ready to continue, plant your feet carefully. You want those final footprints to have a huge impact.

Finally, as you rework your ending, remember that resolutions in stories do not have to tie up all loose ends. In fact, I believe they shouldn’t. Real life doesn’t work that way. We don’t want or need you to fix everything.

 

Except maybe your last line.

 

What are some of your favorites?

 Jodi Moore

Jodi Moore

Jodi considers books, along with chocolate, to be one of the main food groups. She writes both picture books and young adult novels, hoping to challenge, nourish and inspire her readers by opening up brand new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking.

Jodi is the proud and (admittedly) neurotic mother of two incredibly talented young adults and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord really will stretch. She lives in central PA with her always supportive best friend/husband, Larry, two laughing doves, and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. In addition to reading, writing, and chocolate, Jodi enjoys music, theater, dancing, the beach, and precious time spent with her family.

Finally, Jodi thinks it would be really cool if one of her stories eventually became a Disney or Universal movie or theme park ride. Or a Broadway musical.
Just puttin’ it out there.

Jodi is the author of:

DRAGON hi res cover 2When Dragon Moves In

Good News Nelson hi res
Good News Nelson
&

WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN (Flashlight Press) is coming Fall 2015

FIND JODI MOORE:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Writing Prompt:

It’s been said that hindsight is 20:20. Can you write a story based on a final sentence? Try it with this prompt:  “I told you so”, she said, and flashed a smile a mile wide.

 

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 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble

Summer SparksA Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End.
by Julie Gribble

 

Visual learning

In a recent post here on her blog, Tracey encouraged us to include videos in our marketing strategy. MONDAY MARKETING: YOUTUBE  *VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR*

https://traceymcox.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/

“What better concept to get your message across. Let’s face the facts. MOST PEOPLE ARE VISUAL LEARNERS. This means a picture is worth a thousand words (which makes me sad … I’m an author! I live on words). You can tell someone something (directions/recipes/variations of color/yadda yadda), but if you SHOW them…It clicks!”

 

As one of those visual learners, I can tell you her words ring true to me.

Like most kids, I had a vivid imagination (still do) and an active body that always seemed to be in motion (not so much anymore). You’d usually find me up a tree, on a bike, or in the municipal pool – I just didn’t want to sit still. However, I would sit still for a moment to read a book, if that book was filled with pictures. Illustrations sparked my imagination – I’d think up a story of my own that I wanted to tell, and then scribble this version of the story next to images in the book. Upon reflection, I realize now that pictures prompted my interest in writing.

 

Endings are hard

Working in television for many years, behind the scenes on comedy shows, gave me a rare perspective on the creative writing process as skits were drafted, rehearsed, rewritten, rehearsed again, revised, and then performed live. This perspective could best be described as a master class in comedy writing. And indeed, I learned that a good ending, although difficult to write, is a critical element in every good skit or story. I also learned that even the pros have trouble with endings because endings are hard.

 

Using visuals to write satisfying endings

One of the best writing prompts I’ve ever come across, was taught in a screenwriting course. Each student was given a different photograph then asked to place it on the table in front of him or her. The teacher asked us to imagine that the picture in front of us depicted the last scene in our film – it was the last image seen by the audience before the credits rolled. We were asked to describe what was happening at that very moment, in as much detail as we could imagine. Then we were asked to tell the story that ended with that scene.

This exercise made us focus on just the ending of the story – no need to think about how the story might end, because we were already there.

 

Since good endings are hard to write, why not start with them first? So let’s try doing that here on Summer Sparks!

 

Choose your favorite picture below then imagine that it’s the last image in your story – don’t think about how the subject(s) got there, just think about what they’re doing, thinking, or feeling at the very moment this picture was taken.

 

Let’s begin with this image:

**click picture for better viewing**article-1207590-061B1271000005DC-144_634x838©Specialist Stock/Barcroft Media

What’s happening here?

Is the whale happy to meet this skinny walrus?

Or perhaps the whale now believes mermaids are real?

Have the hunter and whale come to a truce?

Or did this diver wish to meet the last whale in the sea?

 

1 – Chose your ending.

2 – Ok, now that you have your ending, tell us how they got there – think about what happened to the characters before this scene. That is your story to tell.

Writing Prompt

So, let’s continue the exercise. Imagine the last image in your story is depicted below. How does your story end? Let your imagination run wild and let the Summer Sparks fly!

**click pictures for better viewing:

ladybug-landing-with-style1© Source Unknown

 

original© Jay Malone

 

Bearbreakfast©ChubbyCheekPhotography

 

slide_326400_3140268_free©Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

 

mantis-bike_2191258b©Eco Suparman

cute-baby-animals-37©Andreas Butz

 

baby01© Source Unknown

 

Here are a few resources to help get you off to a good start finish:

 

Sources for visually-inspiring writing prompts:

http://www.pinterest.com/mseringannon/visual-writing-prompts

http://www.pinterest.com/lilmarbar/pictures-and-writing-inspiration

http://www.piclits.com/compose_dragdrop.aspx

https://www.behance.net

http://thedesigninspiration.com/articles/70-cutie-baby-animals-bring-your-a-good-mood

http://visualprompts.weebly.com

 

Articles on using visual writing prompts:

http://www.carriemumford.com/using-photos-to-inspire-your-writing

http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/eringannon/we-love-visual-writing-prompts

http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2009/11/piclits-inspired-picture-writing.html#.U6jPz15ebud

 

Articles on visual learning:

How Visual Learning Supports Writing | Thinkspiration™ The Inspiration® Software Blog

http://www.inspiration.com/blog/2011/03/how-visual-learning-supports-writing/

“Pre-writing is essential to producing quality writing. Research indicates that skilled writers spend significantly more time organizing and planning what they are going to write.

So, when teachers ask students to create a bubble diagram, a web or any other visual diagram in the pre-writing process, it’s utilizing visual learning to help students clarify their thinking and organize their writing.”

Sensory Learning Styles | Grapplearts

http://www.grapplearts.com/Blog/2012/04/sensory-learning-styles

“Visual learners prefer to watch demonstrations and will often get a lot out of video taped instruction as well. You can sometimes tell you’re dealing with a visual learner when they ask, “Can I see that again?” Other types of learners would ask if you could do it again, or explain it again, but visual learners will often say they want to see it. It’s just a little sign that the person you’re coaching may be a visual learner.”

 

Articles on good endings:

How to Write Successful Endings | WritersDigest.com

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/how_to_write_successful_endings

“The most-asked question when someone describes a novel, movie or short story to a friend probably is, “How does it end?” Endings carry tremendous weight with readers; if they don’t like the ending, chances are they’ll say they didn’t like the work. Failed endings are also the most common problems editors have with submitted works.

Making your ending a success involves two things. The first is content; the events of the ending must satisfy everything that has gone before. There’s no easy way to tell anyone how to do this; it depends entirely on what the work has seemed to promise the reader. Whatever that was must be delivered.”

Teaching That Makes Sense!

www.ttms.org/PDFs/01%20Writing%20Strategy%20Guide%20v001%20(Full).pdf

 

“• Feel finished. A good ending has a certain feel to it, and that feeling is one of completeness: there’s nothing else the writer needs to say, the piece has been wrapped up, summed up, and tied up so completely that the reader feels completely satisfied.

• Give the reader something to think about or do. Readers like to ponder a bit at the end of a piece, they like to have something to consider, something to reflect on, something to take with them for the future. Ideally, your ideas will linger in their mind long after they’ve read your last sentence. That’s the test of truly effective writing.

• Meet your reader’s expectations. With the beginning and middle of your piece, you’ve set up certain expectations in the minds of your readers. Your ending has to live up to those expectations, it has to fulfill the promise of everything that has come before.

• Too often, readers feel let down by the ending. And that can ruin their entire experience of a piece. It’s not that readers are mean people with impossibly high standards. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your readers want you to have a great ending so badly that they often can’t help but disappoint themselves. This is just another reason why endings are so important and why good endings are so hard to write.

• The ending is the last thing your audience will read. As we’ve talked about before, you have a lot of responsibility when it comes to ending your piece effectively. After all, the ending is the last thing your readers will read and that means they’re quite likely to remember it better than other parts of your piece. But this means you have an opportunity, too. You can use your ending to say something very important with the knowledge that your readers will be listening closely to your every word. There are only two places where you can count on having your reader’s full attention. One is at the beginning, the other is at the end.”

 

Photo Credits:

 

JULIE GRIBBLE

Julie Gribble

 

After 19 years and 2 Emmy nominations, Julie left a successful career at NBC Universal to launch New York Media Works. As an award winning children’s book author, screenwriter, and independent filmmaker, she provides narrative fiction and documentary content for NYMW projects. She enjoys collaborating with other artists and bringing creative people together.

Julie was the first picture book author accepted into the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and has been mentored by Emma Walton Hamilton and Cindy Kane Trumbore. She’s a full-time writer and a member of BAFTA-NY Children’s Committee, SCBWI, ChLA, and is founder of KidLit TV an online visual resource for the greater kid lit community which launches in the Fall.

Julie and Tracey run KidLit TV’s Facebook group – Join us!  https://www.facebook.com/ groups/KidLitTV
Julie is the author of:
Bubble Gum Princess

Bubble Gum Princess

 

FIND JULIE:

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter

 

Julie is giving away one copy of BUBBLE GUM PRINÇESS. Go ”HERE” for your chance to win.

:::LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW:::
Let us know if you are more visual.
What other things can you do to get the juices going? Listening to music? Take a walk? Take a shower?

 

 

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!