Tag Archives: teach yourself

What’s your problem?


A mouse went to a shop. He bought some cheese. And he went home again.

This is a story, in so far as it has a beginning, a middle and an end. But that’s about all that you can say for it. Mouse groceries: big wow.

What is the mouse’s problem?

All stories need problems. A problem works like a hook. It feels your collar, it coaxes you onwards. A problem creates conflict, which creates drive, which takes you to the next page, and the page after that.

Introduce an interesting problem. The mouse can’t be late BECAUSE… He can’t buy the cheese BECAUSE… Don’t forget the crucial part the pictures can play. What if a cat is following him the whole way?

Tug, tug, tug. Can you feel the hook?

Learn more on my introductory writing course 20-21 March 2017, GET STARTED IN WRITING AN ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN’S BOOK. Tickets still available!

 

 

OId Flames

It was a good idea. I got a long way into it: world building, characters, plot. Then I dropped it.

Why?

Revisiting old ideas isn’t always great. Some ideas stay ideas for a reason: too thin, too odd, too vague. Sometimes you can trace your own development from a poor idea to a much better one further down the line: familiar characters, a joke too good to lose, a villainous name. So not all of your work was wasted. It’s arguable that no written work is ever wasted. Every bit of it sharpens your pen, focuses your thoughts. An idea doesn’t have to end in a finished book to have been worth your while.

The old idea that I have been revisiting doesn’t seem to have cast a shadow on later books or concepts. I think because it was an idea complete in itself. Re-reading it four years on has excited me. The concept is good. Solid. Worth saving, I think. But what it lacks – something I couldn’t see four years ago when I was blinded by my own overinflated sense of genius – is heart.

Heart lies with character. Pull that apart, rebuild it from the heart upwards. If it is rooted inside a structure that you think still works, you could rekindle an old flame.

GET STARTED IN WRITING AN ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN’S BOOK: out now.

 

Reasons for Writing an Illustrated Children’s Book #2

wormMy idea hasn’t been done before.

This feels different from ‘I have a great idea’. It implies that you’ve studied the market very hard and have found a space on the bookshelves which you intend to fill or die in the attempt. Your story is called Ernie the Line-Dancing Earthworm. Scissor kicks, invertebrates: this baby has it all! You haven’t thought about the writing or illustrating part yet, but you feel confident that these are secondary to the originality of your concept.

You’re on dangerous ground. There are only a finite number of plots, and they’ve all been done. Anything that remains, generally remains unwritten for a good reason.

GSIWAICBGeorges Polti states that there are thirty-six plots in his book, Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations (1916). Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots (2004) claims, unsurprisingly, only seven. Other theorists have declared that there are just two stories: going on a journey, and a stranger coming to town. Which you could argue is the same plot really, just seen from the opposite direction. Anne Fine, prize-winning author and Children’s Laureate 2001-2003, has said that “plots are overrated,” and she may have a point.

Great children’s books can be about nothing at all, and yet everything at the same time. The story that will succeed is not the madly original idea; it’s the brilliantly well-constructed one.

Get Started in Writing an Illustrated Children’s Book. Out now!

 

Reasons for Writing an Illustrated Children’s Book #1

book-books-background-backgrounds-sheet-page-writingI have a great idea.

This is an excellent starting point. I applaud you for already putting your imagination to work. It’s exciting isn’t it, that feeling when you have a little kernel of gold in your mind that you feel sure will turn into something wonderful?

I’m afraid having the idea is the easy part. Building that idea into something takes work. But you’re prepared for that, right?

GSIWAICBNinety-nine time out of a hundred, an idea will wither on the vine, not because it’s a bad idea, but because the writer doesn’t know how to nurture it. When the first flush of excitement passes, you can’t see where it goes next. You struggle to visualise the span of your book. You can’t make your characters sound the way you want, or look the way you imagined. Your story only stretches to one page and you don’t know how to fatten it up. This is as true for experienced writers as it is for those just starting out. I would hazard a guess that every published author in the field of children’s books has a drawer full of unfinished stories and half-sketched ideas that simply didn’t go anywhere. You are in good company.

Get Started in Writing an Illustrated Children’s BookOut now!