OK, I have to admit it – I barely made it through section 2 of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul in time for this check-in. Something about a combination of illnesses, birthdays, school vacation week, Downton Abbey, and…not exactly writer’s block, but let’s just say it took me 2.5 hours to write about 100 words this morning (with pauses to make fresh cups of tea which kept going stone cold on me as I stared at the computer screen).
And so…drumroll…my progress on section 2:
Chapter 2, which I blogged about a few weeks ago, deals with story questions and answers. This was immensely helpful because I realized that the manuscript I’m revising was trying to ask too many questions. Streamlining will help the story feel tighter, and I spent a while coming up with a good story question and answer. Check! Homework for chapter 2 complete.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 all deal with point-of-view, voice, and considerations such as setting and historical era. The assignments for these chapters (which I dutifully did!) all require rewriting the opening of your story in a different POV or voice. This is a very helpful exercise, I found. My story was originally written in the third person. I rewrote the opening in first person; in first person (switching POV character); and in diary form (with the original POV character).
I found that writing in the first person allowed me to weave in more of the character’s motivation. Also, switching POV characters helped me think about the other major character in my story, because I have gotten several critique comments that she is “too flat.” Writing in the first person from her point of view forced me to think about her motivations, where she comes from, and WHY she does the things she does.
I also rewrote my opening in some of the voices described in chapter 4. While I think I will stick to my original voice for this manuscript, rewriting my piece as a conversation between two characters, for example, has given me some snippets of colorful dialogue that I can work into my manuscript.
But what really has helped me break through (well, almost) with this story was the advice in chapter 6 about writing a character sketch for each character. I don’t want to infringe on her ideas by breaking it all down here, but I thought the tips on writing a character sketch for a picture book character were helpful and non-intimidating. This doesn’t need to be pages and pages – just enough to give the character some depth.
I said above that I’ve *almost* broken through with this story because, while I’ve resolved my story question issue and think I can deepen my characters, I still have a bit of a plot problem, and so I’m looking forward to section 3 where we get into plot and the structure of the story.
Keep reading! Keep writing! I will officially check in on Section 3 on March 19. (That’s a week later than originally planned but I’m sure no one will complain.)