Information to help others become better readers, writers, designers, and illustrators
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Researching for Your Book
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Illustrating the Chapter Book vs. the Picture Book
|Attitude is important when approaching the chapter book illustration assignment.|
Be prepared to read carefully and perhaps more than once per chapter.
|Some situations call for more drama in the illsutrations. Darker tones and|
a somber mood are conveyed with strong darks and lights.
|The intended age group needs to be considered when illustrating a chapter book.|
|The illustrations in a chapter book are hints and previews for|
what is about to occur.
Have you ever thumbed through the pages of a chapter book looking at those illustrations to see what might be coming in a new chapter? Those key illustrations are the hints I mentioned. They should be interesting enough to keep the reader turning page after page to find out what is going to happen next. Another key factor is that they should be as exact a translation of the key point as possible. Read for the details. Does the heroine have a cat AND a dog in bed? Are the windows in the house all broken, closed, open, filled with light? Did the man in the chapter wear a watch? Did the woman at the library try to hide something behind her back? Details are extremely important.
|Peaceful situations may call for more traditional|
illustrations and a bit of gray tone.
|Just plain humor may require quick strokes and dancing lines.|
If you are planning to illustrate a chapter book, especially if it is your first attempt, go to the bookstore or library and take a look at as many as you can. Once you get a feel for the design, see what it is that you like or dislike about the way the illustrations are presented and how well they move the reader through the story. Then tackle the chapter book you have been assigned. Read it over several times. Find the key to each chapter and let the illustrations you create unlock chapter after chapter for the eager reader.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Promotion: Review of Sparrow Alone on the Housetop
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Writing Tips: Active v.s. Passive Voice by Stephanie Burkhart
"Spider in our Mailbox."
As writers, we should always be on the lookout for active v.s. passive voice. For me, this can be a challenge at times. Passive voice can sneak into your paragraphs in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, you've written a story that will put someone to sleep.
Here's some tips on keeping your writing active:
Remember, using an active voice keeps your writing lively and engaging. In active voice, the subject acts.
Alyssa raced up the steps.
Miguel skimmed the apps on his phone.
These sentences are direct and make it clear what's going on.
When a sentence is passive, the subject was acted upon and not an agent of action. (It's all about the action, you see –wink-)
Alyssa was winded after running up the steps.
Miguel was frustrated when he couldn't find the app he wanted on the phone.
Let's face it – the above sentences are dull. There's no energy in them. They don't engage the reader. They "tell," don't "show."
Some things you can do:
1. Put the work down for a couple of hours then pick it up again looking at it with a fresh set of eyes.
2. Go through each sentence.
3. "was" is a big clue that you might have used passive voice. (While there are occasions when "was" is used in active voice, it's usually a tip that you've used it in a passive context. Does your sentence "tell," as opposed to "show?")
4. Tighten up the passages once you find them. Consult a thesaurus for alternate word choices.
Alyssa placed her hands on her knees and drew in long, deep breaths.
Miguel frowned his frustration when he didn't find his app.
Both the retooled sentences are direct and make it clear to the reader who is doing what.
Active voice is simple and concise. It engages the reader and by engaging the reader, you keep them hooked.
Bio: Stephanie Burkhart's 4RV Release, "The Giving Meadow" is about a caterpillar that travels through a meadow making friends and learning about caring for others. She works for LAPD as a 911 Dispatcher and lives in Southern California. Born and raised in New Hampshire, her favorite football team is the New England Patriots.
5 Stars, Midwest Book Review
Colorful illustrations add just the right touch to this gentle heartwarming story about the transformative power of sharing.
Publisher's Buy Link: http://4rvpublishingllc.com/Childrens_Books.html
Find me at:
Facebook Fan Page:
Friday, August 26, 2011
The Power of the Tweet ...
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Case of the pesky pronouns
1st person I, me, my, mine, myself we, us, our, ours, ourselves
Incorrect: Me and Joe went fishing yesterday. Me is an object form and cannot be used as a subject.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Making Characters Breathe
Characters who aren't "real," who don't breathe, don't live for the reader can destroy an otherwise good plot.
Believable, living characters make a story, novel, article live and breathe, too. Several tips can help the writer create a “can’t put it down” manuscript that could catch the eye of an agent or publisher and finally readers.
* Know your characters. Create a life, likes, hates, etc. for each characters. Even if most of the information never makes its way into the plot/story. The more real a character is to you, the writer, the more believable he or she will be to others.
Personally, I make charts for my characters, listing even unimportant aspects such as favorite color, food likes and dislikes, as well as major components of their personalities and physical appearances. I have each character on a separate file card with his/her name at the top.
* Characters needs strengths and weaknesses. Whether characters are likable or unlikable, they need good traits or strengths and bad traits or weaknesses. No living person is one dimensional, so neither should fictitious ones be. Even Superman had one weakness, even if an external one.
One sub-point - characters can be unlikable, protagonists, or evil without being excessively vulgar or profane.
* Flaws and passions should be revealed in layers. This idea ties into “show, don’t tell.” A writer can write a paragraph or more explaining the personality traits, feelings, strengths, and/or weaknesses of a character, boring a reader to tears; or the author can reveal layer by layer of the character through the plot and storyline - showing the reader the character rather than telling about the character.
* Be able to “show” your characters’ intentions. Thomas Mullen, author of The Last Town on Earth, stated when interviewed for the January 2008 The Writer: “I wanted to create a novel in which all the characters are motivated by good intentions, so I could play with the conflicts that would nevertheless result.”
Yes, some characters in some stories or novels have evil intentions; but sometimes bad things can happen even if a character has good intentions. Knowing your characters intentions and revealing them through the plot helps make living, breathing characters.
If you, the writer, know the whys and hows of your characters actions, thoughts, and words, then you can help the reader know, too.
* Observe and listen to people around you, or use your memory. Watch how people act and react. Listen to how they talk. Remember people you knew and how they acted and reacted, their foibles. Use those ideas in developing characters.
I have offered but a few tips for developing characters that breathe, that live for anyone who reads your work.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Perfect example as to why every illustrator should learn basic layout design.
Now if this were a 'normal' art work, there may be a feeling of 'weight' on the left more so than on the right (probably why my sub-conscience stretched that rope clear across the page to the other end and slightly pointing toward the barren corner ;P) , but as you already know, this in not meant to be a stand alone piece. On the other hand, I also feel an illustration or cover art piece should have the strength to carry itself, too, probably why I chose to include the full scene, to give the art itself a 'base'.
Even if you don't wish to become a designer, you can see how KNOWING for CERTAIN where your art can and can't go on your 'canvas' ahead of time is a big help in deciding your colors and composition. That's why I encourage every illustrator to take a basic layout and design course. The most it can do is increase your skills and your art. Now, let's put our finished composition in the layout:
Thursday, August 18, 2011
How to insure a publisher will reject your manuscript
4RV online catalog
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Ways to Educate and Motivate the Creative Muse within You
"Ways to Educate and Motivate the Creative Muse within You" by Joan Y. Edwards
Here are ways to educate and motivate the creative muse within you.
1. Experience Life, attend workshops, take courses.a. Bake cakes.
b. Go on a tour of an Historic house.
c. Attend a weekend workshop.
d. Volunteer at a homeless shelter for children.
e. Take a writing course at a community college or other learning institution.
2. Read three books about the craft of writing.a. Darcy Pattison: Novel Metamorphosis
b. Donald Maass: The Fire in Fiction
c. Donald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel
d. Donald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
e. James N. Frey How to Write a Damn Good Novel
f. James N. Frey How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II
g. James N. Frey How to Write a Damn Good Mystery
h. James N. Frey The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth
i. Karl Iglesias: Writing for Emotional Impact
j. Margaret Lucke: Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Short Stories
k. Noah Lukeman: The First Five Pages
l. Jordan E. Rosenfeld: Make a Scene
m. Katharine Sands: Making the Perfect Pitch
n. Remni Browne and Dave King: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
3. Read three best-selling books in your favorite genre.
4. Watch three movies in the genre you write.
5. Study the websites of three best-selling authors.
Here is a list of many to choose from or search for your favorite online.
Best-Selling Authors for Children
James Patterson http://www.jamespatterson.com/
Rick Riordan http://www.rickriordan.com/
Jeff Kinney http://www.wimpykid.com/
Victoria Kann http://www.ilikeart.com/
Jane O'Connor http://www.fancynancyworld.com/
Suzanne Collins http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/
J. K. Rowling http://www.jkrowling.com/
Best-Selling Authors for Adults
John Grisham http://www.jgrisham.com/
George R. R. Martin http://georgerrmartin.com/
Catherine Coulter http://www.catherinecoulter.com/
Janet Evanovich http://www.evanovich.com/
6. Study and find three matching three publishers and agents for your manuscripts:a. Research publishers and agents online. Find ones that match what you write.
b. Visit the Preditors & Editors website to check out the editors and agents you've chosen. It'll tell you if they are legitimate or warn you about them. http://pred-ed.com/
c. Check the submission guidelines of the websites of the publishers and agents of three of your favorite books.
7. Write.Write. Write. Write.
Thank you for reading my article. Please leave a comment. I value your opinion.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
? What is Tradigital ?
The methods and means of illustrating for children's books, book covers, novels, and magazines have changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Advances in computer painting software, digital photography and the internet create a combination of tools for the artist.
For any artist trained in the traditional methods of oil, acrylics, pen and ink, etching, print making, and screen printing the advances in computer technology provide new tools for the trade.
Combining the traditional methods with digital methods leads me to define the work as "Tradigital."
As an example, my work begins as pencil sketches. Often I will add paint to the first draft and then either photograph the beginnings or scan the work if it is small enough. I am not alone using this traditional beginning process. The advantage for a traditionally trained artist is the freedom to work in large strokes that capture a moment and keep the flow from the brain to the paper or canvas. If wanted a soft wash can be added to define form. Some of us love to feel the paper beneath the pencil; a soft and reassuring sound and feel can stir the imagination.
There is something about a pencil on drawing paper that cannot be recreated. There is a tone, a feel and a journey the artist takes from that first mark on the paper to the completion of an idea.
Using a digital camera to transfer the initial work to the computer is easier than using a scanner if the first sketches are very large. I like to keep the drawing table ready for any thought or idea that pops into my head. The camera is always ready too *:)
As the artist paints in the computer, layer upon layer of image can be created. Before the layers of painting are merged into one final painting the artist has the option of eliminating, improving, changing, enhancing or redoing any layer. Once merged, the layers become the final painting. Then it is on to the designer and editor.
What are the tools of the "tradigital" artist? A must-have is a drawing tablet and stylus or an entire screen on which to draw. Wacom is one of the companies that make various sizes of tablets that are packaged with a pressure sensitive stylus. For this type of tablet the artist draws on the tablet while watching the computer screen. Color, line, paint, adjustments in size and much more are easily controlled.
A newer, but more costly advance, the Cintiq, eliminates the disconnect between tablet and computer screen. The Cintiq is the screen you actually draw upon. Cintiq by Wacom is the industry standard for a screen on which your high end painting software combines with the ability to draw right on the screen itself. The images the artist creates in this way mimic the traditional method most closely.
The advantages for the "tradigital" artist are numerous. Today's publishing industry often demands quick turn around on assignments. Numerous changes may occur during an assignment. Computer painting programs allow the artist to make changes in color, composition, size, and style without laboriously redoing an entire oil or acrylic painting. There is also the fact that many large files containing illustrations can be sent quickly over a secure internet connection.
Another key factor that enables "tradigital" artists to keep their sanity is the fact that there are 32-200+ levels of "undo" in some of the most sophisticated painting programs. You may not like the color of an object... you can change it in an instant. Your art director may not like the size, position, proportion or particular hue in a painting. The digital process will allow far more forgiving changes.
Occasionally editors, on behalf of their client, the author, will require the artist to redo and revise large sections of a book or create an entirely new cover. The "tradigital" artist enjoys an advantage here even if the editor needs a completely new direction. The combination of traditional and digital moves the project along at a quicker pace and keeps to tight deadlines.
Do not call "tradigital" or even "digital" painting computer generated art or call it digitized. Those are two things it is not. This is still painting and drawing which take time and talent. There are instances where a digital painting can take longer than a traditional one because of the complexity that is coupled with the endless possibilities. Calling this type of art - digitized -does not reflect the amount of time and care that goes into the creation of illustrations that have the power to interest, enlighten and entertain.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The Live-action Book Trailer
Late last night we completed the live-action trailer for 4RV novel, Sparrow Alone on the Housetop (coming out next month). Earlier, we taped about forty scenes we could possibly use for it. That was the fun part. This week we had to sort through what we’d taped, transfer it to our software, and start the arduous task of editing.
Or this link:
These type trailers are being used more and more frequently by publishers, especially to attract younger readers.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Is haggling on illustration/design fees ethical or fair?
Monday, August 8, 2011
Put action in books for children and teens -- a must
Youngsters enjoy good stories, whether they listen or read for themselves. However, action is needed to keep their attention, even if the reader wants them to go to sleep. Children don’t always respond to boredom by sleeping.
“What do you mean, action is need?”
Yes, I heard that question, and I’ll give you an answer that will improve any stories written for children.
“What do you know about writing for children?”
I have some published books and stories. My company publishes children’s, middle grade, and young adult books, and we have some very good ones, books that delight children and even adults. I have also studied what is needed in a good children’s story, poem, or book. I read about what other publishers and editors want.
According to Write4Kids.com, stories for children develop mainly through action and dialogue, with concrete action from the first lines. Publishers and editors search for stories with a plot containing strong action.
Part of action in writing of any kind concerns the use of strong action verbs. Passive voice and state of being verbs have a place in writing but should be avoided as much as possible. A good writer will replace weak verbs and passiveness with action verbs and active voice.
“What are you talking about: action verbs, active voice, passive voice, state of being verbs?”
All right, let’s have a brief grammar lesson. One type of passive voice uses verbs with have, had, or has as helping verbs. It denotes something that happened in the past in a passive, non-active way. An example of a sentence in passive voice with one of those helping verbs would be as follows:
The boy had begged for a dog for a long time, but his parents had wanted him to have a cat.
Making the verbs action without the sluggish helping verbs makes the sentence more interesting:
The boy begged for a dog for dog for a long time, but his parents wanted him to have a cat.
Another way to have passive voice is to have the subject not do the action of the verb, but receive the action.
The ball was hit by the bat. The ball didn’t hit anything, but it was hit. The subject received the action of the verb, but didn’t act itself.
The bat hit the ball. The bat, the subject, did the acting.
Now we can take this action a step further by using a stronger, more vivid action verb than hit.
The bat collided with the ball. The bat struck the ball.
Using state of being verbs (is, am, are, was, were, been, being) can weaken any writing and shows no action. To avoid using them, sometimes a sentence must be rewritten. It was dark and gloomy. This sentence not only is vague with the use of it, a pronoun without an antecedent, but the linking verb or state of being verb, was, is weak. The moon hid behind the clouds gives the same description without using an unclear pronoun or a vague linking verb. Yes, sometimes we must use a state of being verb, but we should avoid them if possible.
Action verbs show action, either physical or mental behavior. Active voice means that action is shown, that the subject does the action rather than being acted upon. The ball was hit by the bat is passive, not active. The subject "ball" is acted upon, does not act. The bat hit the ball is active voice because the subject "bat" does the action, hit. Yes, the past three sentences repeat information given previously, but we can all use the refresher course.
Now, back to including action in children’s stories, poetry, and books.
Umm … those ideas sound like what all readers of all ages want when they read and what all writers need in their work.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Promotion: A Review of The Joke's on Me by Laurie Boris
Book review: ‘The Joke’s On Me’ by Laurie Boris
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Wackiest Writing Advice I’ve Gotten
by Laurie Boris
Over the many years I’ve been writing, I’ve gotten some excellent advice from teachers, editors, publishers, literary agents, and other writers. But some has been, well, not as helpful. Here’s some of the wackiest advice I’ve gotten. (Note: your actual experience may vary.)
1. Write what you know. Pretty much every writer has been hit with this one. Yes, writing about people, places, and situations with which you are intimately involved might make your writing more immediate and more powerful. (How could Mark Twain have pulled off so many of his great novels if the Mississippi didn’t course through his veins?) But this type of dogma can limit your creativity by forcing you to focus solely on what and whom you’ve been exposed to. What about science fiction and fantasy writers, who imagine worlds so palpable it’s hard to believe they don’t exist in “real life”? How could Gene Roddenberry have created Star Trek or Frank Herbert written the haunting, sandworm-infested world of Dune if they’d stuck solely to writing what had passed by their eyes and ears? Perhaps we could tailor that phrase, as many have suggested, to read, “Write what you want to know.”
2. Comedy doesn’t sell. Augh! And me, a (mostly) comedy writer! Yes, comedy is subjective. This may be why some in the publishing industry are reluctant to take it on. But there sure are a lot of people buying Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, Sophie Kinsella, Rita Mae Brown, Nick Hornby, and Dave Barry.
3. Adults don’t want to read stories with teen protagonists. A literary agent told me this, as I shopped around a novel with a sixteen-going-on-thirty-year-old protagonist. I think it’s ridiculous. Had she never heard of Holden Caulfield? Or maybe Bella Swan? Twilight readers aren’t all teens. Many of them are mothers of teens.
4. The novel is dead. Are you kidding me? We could argue about the possible passing of printed novels underneath the wave of e-book sales, but story itself? No. We want to read stuff. Sales figures show that. Categories may shift in popularity (vampires this month, cheeky British singletons the next, telepathic zombies after that) but novel sales—especially romance and YA—are not horrible.
5. Women can’t write male POV characters (and vice versa). This is a fascinating bit and I could probably write a whole blog (or two) about it. A teacher of mine, for whom I have nothing but respect and admiration, regularly lectures women writers to stay out of men’s heads. That we couldn’t possibly know how men think, and if we asked one, he’d lie. I have a problem with this. Yes, I’ve read many stereotypical, cardboard or just plain WRONG female POV characters written by men (Steve Martin’s Shopgirl in particular disturbed me), and I imagine you guys could give me a few examples of off-key male characters written by women. But have you read Memoir of a Geisha? Arthur Golden did his research, interviewed geishas, and even made himself up as one so he could get closer to the characters he wrote so brilliantly about. Jonathan Franzen took some heat for writing female POV in Freedom. NPR’s Terry Gross asked him if, as a man, he’d found it challenging to write Patty, his female POV protagonist. Franzen merely replied that he’d grown up around women. So, what’s not to know? I grew up with a father, two brothers, and later, a whole bunch of stepbrothers. And mostly (judging from the feedback of guys who’ve done my crits), my male characters are authentic. Unless they’ve been lying to me.
I hope you won’t lie to me. What is the wackiest advice you ever got about writing, or about anything else?
Laurie Boris is the author of The Joke's on Me, a contemporary novel NEW from 4RV Publishing. She also blogs about writing, books, and the language of popular culture at http://laurieboris.com.