• Open with a Scene

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    I'm judging a contest for a state award's program and I'm struck again by stories that open with a scene. Reading through a dozen manuscripts at a time, you get an overview of what works and what doesn't. I've written a lot about the opening of a story here (the most popular post on this blog) ...

  • Plotting: The Messy Doorway to Story

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    I'm plotting a new trilogy of novels, and as usual, it's hard. I keep thinking that someday I'll figure out THE way to plot "correctly." So far, that hasn't happened. Every time I start again, the process is unclear, messy, frustrating, and likely to fail at any moment. Yet, somehow, I muddle through to a ...

  • Do You Use Swear Words in Your Fiction?

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    Do you use swear words, cuss words, or bad words when you write fiction? If you're writing picture books, no. But as your audience gets older and older, they start to creep into fiction. Guidelines for Using Swear Words in Fiction There are a couple schools of thought about using swear words in your fiction. Faithful to ...

  • Series Tips: Characters, Timeline & Plot

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    Are you interested in writing a series of novels, picture books or stories? Here are some series tips. My first general tip is to use Scrivener. It's the software designed for authors and writers. It allows you to arrange (and rearrange) chunks of story, much like an outline. There's a visual aspect when you use the ...

  • Picture Books That Soar – With Leslie Helakoski

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    For the past few summers, I've co-taught a picture book workshop with author/illustrator, Leslie Helakoski at the Highlights Foundation. HOOT AND HONK, Leslie’s newest picture book, follows an owlet and a gosling, who have trouble adjusting to sleep patterns when they end up in each other’s nest. The spare text in this beautifully illustrated bedtime ...