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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Secrets of Writing for Children


and METER.

by Dori Chaconas

"To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme" -
In the archives of SmartWriters Journal
+ "Icing on the Cake" - on Dori's Website.

*These two articles are the perfect lessons on
 how to write stories in rhyme and meter.

If you want to learn the secrets of writing rhyming picture books, read these two amazing articles by Dori Chaconas. Dori nails the subject. Her clear, precise information and instructive examples, make it seem easy. If you long to write great rhyme, studying and absorbing the wisdom in these two articles is for you.


Visit Margot's 
for HELP and ADVICE.


Use your "Find" application
to track down the troublesome words below.

DOWN: If the verb implies down, "down" is unnecessary.
*She sat down in the chair.
*She sat in the chair.
UP: If the verb implies up, "up" is unnecessary.
*He stood up.
*He stood.
OUT: If the verb implies out, "out" is unnecessary.
*The cloth was spread out over the table.
*The cloth was spread over the table.
THEN: If action follows, "then" is implied.
*He aimed the gun, then fired.
*He aimed the gun and fired.
BEGAN - STARTED: *He raised an arm and began to scrub viciously at his skin.
*He raised an arm and scrubbed viciously at his skin.
*He lifted the pen and started to write.
*He lifted the pen and wrote.
FELT - FEEL: Weak words can often be replaced to create a clearer image
*The chill of the night air had little to do with the cold she felt.
*The chill of the night air had little to do with the cold swirling inside her.
BACK: Often a given if the subject of the sentence is doing one thing and then does another.
Also note in the example, down was unneeded.
*Jessie shook her head as she gazed back down at the child.
*Jessie shook her head as she gazed at the child.
BACK - RETURNED: Sometimes "returned" can signal going back to a previous action.
*He turned his attention back to the raging storm.
*He returned his attention to the raging storm.
PASSIVE VOICE: Various methods of torture developed by his ancestors were contemplated
by Harrison.
ACTIVE VOICE: Harrison contemplated various methods of torture developed by his ancestors.
INSTEAD: Often unnecessary. It's a given that he didn't land on the chair if he landed on the floor.*He'd land on the floor instead of the chair.
*He'd land on the floor.
TO THE: Often causes wordiness
*The door to the office.
*The office door.
SUDDENLY: Seldom needed. If it's the next action, writing it as such often eliminates the
need for the word.
*Suddenly the bull lurched forward.
*The bull lurched forward.
BE--ING: Sometimes makes for longer, weaker sentences.
*I suppose I should be thanking you.
*I suppose I should thank you.
COULD: Determine if the sentence conveys the information without it.
*He could see her walking toward him.
*He saw her walking toward him.
*Even better: She walked toward him.
WOULD: Determine which sentence is stronger and if "would" is needed. Sometimes it is.
*Occasionally, he would catch her watching him.
*Occasionally, he caught her watching him.
THERE: Generally weak and should be removed when possible.
*If there are men that close--
*If men are that close--
SEEMED: Use only when you want to create an image of doubt.
*Harry's presence seemed to dominate the camp.
*Harry's presence dominated the camp.
WAS (and other linking verbs): Signals a possible weak sentence that can be punched up with a stronger action verb.
*His only fear was--
*He feared--
TO BE: Another example of wordiness.
*He needs to be scrubbing.
*He needs to scrub.
THATA word we all overuse; sometimes it's necessary, often it's not. Always try the sentence
without it and see if it means the same.
JUST: Another word we overuse. Try some of the synonyms like merely, only.


ALWAYS AIM for the



All readers (editors & agents included) love to learn as they read. Whenever possible, place your action in a setting that treats your readers to a locale about which they know very little. A dairy farm, a secret intelligence agency, a coalmine, even another time in history. These are all settings that have the potential to transport readers to new worlds. It's no secret that the success of medical and legal thrillers is due in large part to their "settings" (we all love to learn about the inner workings of hospitals and courtrooms.) Readers love to learn, so choose settings that expand knowledge.
Keep things moving
Regardless of what type of manuscript you're writing, scenes that "drag" are the kiss of death. Often, dull scenes are the result of elaborate setups and wind-downs -- extra commentary before and after the critical event. You often hear successful authors and screenwriters quote the mantra, "In late, out early." This simply means that they open their scenes as late into the action as possible and close their scenes as early as possible (often before the action has even concluded.) If you have a scene that seems to drag, try trimming from the beginning and the end rather than the middle.
Build your foundation with a SINGLE brick
The best manuscripts have a single dramatic question: Will Ahab catch the whale? Will the Jackal kill his target? Will the young lawyer escape the corrupt law firm that hired him? The twists and turns in your novel can (and should!) be intricate, but your foundation needs to have a sole, central conflict around which all the action revolves. A good way to test your manuscript is to synopsize your plot in a single sentence. Can you do it?


Doling out descriptions in "bite-sized" chunks
Once you've researched the "specifics" of your novel, there is an overwhelming urge not to let any of it go to waste. Be careful. Long dry passages of description are a turnoff to readers and agents alike. Remember, we read novels to find out what happens to characters (if we want to read a five-page description of New Delhi, we buy a travel guide.) whenever possible, intersperse your factual description with action and dialog. Better yet, have your characters interacting with your description, that is, let your characters see, smell, and taste your specifics.



CHARACTERS: both you and the reader care about.
COMPLICATIONS: something happens: crises, conflict.
CHOICES: your character makes.
CONFLUENCE: tie it all together at the end.
CONCISE: make the writing tight and terrific
(don't waffle on about things that don't move the plot forward)



Establish your major character.
Focus on what is important.
Character's conflict -- make this clear.
Set the time frame.
Hint at direction -- a good HOOK into the rest of YOUR book.


Checklist for Picture Books
CONFLICT: The protagonist needs to be in conflict with something or someone for the story to grip a reader. Have some problem that bothers, or gnaws, or leads to trouble. The hero/heroine gets to solve the problem over the course of the story. The solving is the meat in your story. 
DIALOGUE: Kids like realistic fast action dialog. It brings things up close and personal. Try for a good hook at the beginning of the story - in the first paragraph. 
GET to the POINT of the story ASAP, because young kids have short attention spans. You will not hold their attention if the story wanders from the main point. 
READ LOTS of  PICTURE BOOKS in the age you are planning to write. This will show you what publishers like and what kids read. Ask your librarian for guidance about what to choose.


Something happens to someone
this leads to making a goal
that needs a plan of action
forces try to stop the protagonist
he moves forward because there is a lot at stake
things get as bad as they can
he learns an important lesson
when he is offered the prize he had sought so hard, he has to
 decide whether to take it on
in making this final decision he satisfies a need created
by something in his past.


The Three C's.

The Clock - The Crucible - The Contract.
We've all heard of the four C's of diamond buying, but writing suspenseful children's fiction has some C's of its own. Here are three elements that your favorite authors invariably employ in their manuscripts to infuse their stories with extra pace and tension.

** THE CLOCK: Placing your action in the shadow of a ticking clock. Nothing intensifies dramatic tension like time pressure.. a fixed window of opportunity after which all is lost. In some genres the time pressure literally can be a ticking bomb (a la James Bond), but more subtle ways exist to apply time pressure. Bridges of Madison County is a good example. In Bridges, the heroine must make a major life decision before her family returns from vacation in three days. (If she'd had the rest of her life to make the decision, the story would have been dull.) Time pressure forces your characters to take action. 
** THE CRUCIBLE: Constraining your characters as you apply the heat. A crucible is defined in Webster's as "an enclosed vessel used for melting materials at high temperatures." Whenever possible, place your characters in a crucible. Lock them in to that when you turn up the heat, they do not have the option of running away. In other words, tie our characters' hands and force them to become resourceful in finding a solution to whatever challenges you put before them. Peter Benchley created a brilliant crucible for his characters in the final scene of Jaws. He placed them on a sinking boat... with the radio blown out... miles from shore... the shark closing in. Even if his characters wanted to run, they could not. They were constrained. The ocean was their crucible.

**THE CONTRACT:* Making promises to your reader, and then keeping them. Good writers create tension by filling the pages of their novels with "promises" to their readers. For example, if an author makes ominous mention of a loaded shotgun in the closet, the reader perceives this as a contract with the author: If I keep reading, that shotgun will be used. This promise serves as foreshadowing and creates tension. When will the gun be used? Against whom? Promises can work on more subtle levels too. By describing a gathering storm outside a character's window (and doing it in just the right way) you can promise your reader that tough times lay ahead for this poor soul. Again tension. Remember, though, once you make your reader a promise, you better deliver.


plus TWEEN.


Does my setting reveal a "new world" to my readers?
Does it have the potential to teach?

Do my scenes start late and end early? Does my plot keep moving?
Can I trim excess fat from lead-ins and wrap-ups?

Is the fundamental question driving the action a simple one?
Can my plot be summed up in a single sentence?

Do I employ the three C's? Do my characters exist in the shadow of a ticking clock?
Are they constrained by some sort of crucible? Do I make contracts with my reader...
and then follow through?

Do I know enough about my topic to write a manuscript filled with specifics?
 What (specifically) will my reader learn?

Is my background information "woven" into my story,
or does it occur in long blocks of description?

Have I reworked my manuscript many times? Have others read it
and offered criticism? Have I tightened dull scenes?
Have I seasoned the stew?


The most fun of all

Somewhere along the way, revision got a bad reputation. Many aspiring writers dread reworking their manuscripts and therefore don't do it. Few of these writers will ever be published. Revision is not only absolutely crucial to the success of your manuscripts, but it can also be the most enjoyable part of writing.
  However, before you begin, put your MS aside for a week or two. This "rest period" allows it to marinate. When you reread it later on,  with a fresh perspective, you will be surprised (shocked?) by the areas that need reworking or tightening. 
When you are finally ready to revise, you have already done the bulk of the hard work. Your ideas are in place, and all that is left is reshuffling ideas, cutting superfluous chatter, trimming the fat, and making all your hard work shine. Revision is like seasoning a stew. . . savoring what works and spicing up what doesn't. Enjoy the process. Remember, while this manuscript is being published, you will be back writing page one of your next project.


We  can chat about YOUR manuscript
and how to make it tight and terrific!


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