Archive for the ‘Writing’ category

Tips for Writing Humor

March 23, 2017

You have an idea for a great picture book. It’s a funny idea. It’s so funny that tears of laughter run down your cheeks. You know this is the manuscript that will put your writing over the top, and you’ll soon be bringing in the big bucks. Go for it. Get that manuscript down on paper and get it out to the masses.

But before you begin on your laugh-out-loud masterpiece, here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind. There are elements in every humorous picture book that contribute to the humor.

Peter Pearson, the author of How to Eat an Airplane, knows humor. He suggests several ways it can be used in picture books. Humor happens when things don’t go together, when characters do unexpected things, when there is a unique premise, or when something totally unexpected happens. Humor also has to do with timing, pacing, and language.

With language, a variety of techniques can be incorporated into your writing to add humor. Think personification, alliteration, repetition, lively verbs, rhythm, rhyme, and onomatopoeia. Remember, too, that as a picture book, a child should be able to relate to it, and it should move along quickly with perfect page turns. And don’t forget to leave room for the illustrator to do his magic. Above all, your book needs to have some emotional level to which the reader can relate. It has to have heart!

There you go – tips for writing humor. They may sound simple, but simple is often deceiving. Get thee to a library and read all the humorous picture books you can find. In fact, read all types of picture books and then read some more.

Check out my last post for some examples of humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Beginning – Thoughts on Writing

October 15, 2015

As a writer, I find the first page of a picture book to be the most challenging to write. The words you choose to put there are critical. You want to hook your readers immediately and keep them turning the pages. In a picture book, every single word counts. Waste not, want not.

Below are a few examples of beginnings from picture books that kept me turning the pages.

CLICK, CLACK, MOO COWS THAT TYPE written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

“Farmer Brown has a problem.

His cows like to type.

All day long he hears

Click, clack, moo.

Click, clack, moo.

Clickety, clack, moo.”

My thoughts:  Right away the reader knows the farmer has a problem – cows that type. How? Why? Turn the page to find out.

THE BOSS BABY written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, Beach Lane Books.

“From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss.”

My thoughts:  A baby that’s the boss. I like that! The beginning sentence and Frazee’s humorous illustrations entice the reader to turn the page and read more.

THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS written by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton and illustrated by Christine Davenier, Little, Brown and Company.

“Hi! I’m Geraldine.

I’m a fairy princess.

You may not believe me, but I can tell you that I AM.”

My thoughts:  I like this character. She’s upbeat and bold. I want to see why she says she’s a fairy princess. Turn the page.

TOUGH CHICKS written by Cece Meng and illustrated by Melissa Suber, Clarion Books.

“From the moment Mama Hen’s eggs burst open, she knew she was dealing with some pretty tough chicks.”

My thoughts:  Little chicks chip away at their shells, they don’t burst out. What mischief are these tough chicks up to? Turn the page to find out.

The combination of the right words and the creativity of the illustrator can result in a fabulous picture book.

Do you have favorite beginnings that you’d like to share?

Food for Thought

June 18, 2015

As I ponder on how to proceed with my writing career, I came across this from Jamie Swenson, an energetic author and early literacy storyteller/library associate. Her words are food for thought.

Deep Thoughts: For years I’ve been told that it is not talent, but perseverance that defines a published vs. non-published writer. Without perseverance, they say – none would succeed in this industry. But perseverance alone is not the key. In my mind, the key is willingness to grow, be flexible, reinvent yourself, and expand your vision of what a successful career as an author/illustrator means. Those who simply persevere – they may carry the same exact story around for years – they may not quit – but it’s unlikely they will succeed. In this world, you must be open and willing to revise – but more than revision – it’s personal growth. You must be willing to throw the story away and start anew. To look at your work and ask yourself the hard questions. This is, in so many ways, more difficult than simply not quitting. I raise my glass to those of you who know what I’m talking about – and continue to produce the very best for the world. *Raises Glass – CLINK* That is all … you may go on with your day …  ~Jamie Swenson

What are your thoughts?

Jamie’s Books:

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Procrastination

December 4, 2014

Procrastination is a terrifying word. It can suck you into a dark hole and leave you grappling to get out. It robs you of quality time and prevents you from achieving your goals.

I’m stuck in the State of Procrastination. I’m ready to finish writing the last chapter of my book. I know exactly how it will end, but my fingers won’t type the words. To give me a kick-start, I turned to quotes by well-known authors for inspiration. (another excellent way to procrastinate)

Neil Gaiman said, “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

I’ve got it. Don’t drag my feet or fingers. Get to it. Put one word after another. It’s Neil Gaiman’s last sentence that puts me in a panic.

Writing is HARD. So here I sit, thinking of all the things I could do besides type that first word. The dead spider in the honeycomb blind should be removed. That crooked picture on the wall is driving me crazy. I wonder who’s on Facebook. Maybe I should tweet something.

Snap out of it. I tell myself. No more procrastinating.

Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Right. Turn on the faucet.

But Bill Watterson said, “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.”

Don’t confuse me! My mood is growing dark, and I’m already in a panic. I need to finish my last chapter. I’m going to turn on all the faucets in the house and let them flow. Maybe something will trickle into my brain and my fingers will begin to type one word after another – or maybe the house will flood.

Dan Gutman’s WEIRD WRITING TIPS

November 13, 2014

There are some students who have a natural talent for writing, and there are others who struggle.

As teachers, we try to inspire and encourage our students to become good writers by modeling and exposing them to a variety of literature. Teaching writing to students can be very daunting. Fear not! I have discovered a book that will make teaching the writing process easier and fun for all involved.

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Dan Gutman, author of My Weird School Series, has written My Weird Writing Tips. It’s illustrated by Jim Paillotand this book is the perfect tool to get your middle-grade students engaged in writing.  Gutman offers students basic tips on the right way to write and talks about the importance of written communication He gets students off on the “write foot” by discussing how to come up with ideas, starting with the ordinary and moving along to the extraordinary. He offers positive reinforcement and inspirational quotes from famous writers. Simple explanations and tricks to help choose the correct part of speech, the right punctuation, and how to differentiate between confusing words (it/it’s) are also included. Did I mention that besides being an excellent writing tool, this book is in-your-face funny!

Every middle-grade classroom should have a copy. Teachers can use it as a read aloud and then follow up with mini writing lessons. Students can use it as a reference or just read it for enjoyment. Imagine a student delving into a writing book just for the fun of it. Get your copy today!

Ghostwriter

March 21, 2013

I’m a writer. My mind is always on the go. It’s popping ideas about a current project or a future one. I’m constantly scribbling on paper, napkins, my hand – whatever is available at the time an idea knocks on my brain.

It so happens the middle of the night is a very popular time for ideas to creep into my subconscious and zap me into consciousness.

Inspiration came the other night. Being careful not to wake the adorable sleeping giant beside me, I quietly reached for the pen and notebook I keep under my side of the bed. In the dark, I wrote down my ideas. I made a distinct point of writing legibly. Too often, I’ve hurriedly scribbled my ideas on paper only to find I’m unable to decipher my writing the next morning. Satisfied that I had all my thoughts neatly written down, I rolled over and went to sleep.

Morning arrived. It was going to be a good day for writing. I just knew it. I took my notebook to my computer. I sat down to read my overnight inspiration. Read what?

The page was empty. I flipped through the notebook forwards and backwards – nothing! My words had disappeared. Did I dream my inspiration? Did someone sneak into the bedroom and steal my words of wisdom? Was it ghostwritten, using invisible words? Maybe that’s how H.G. Wells was inspired to write The Invisible Man!

Upon further investigation, I found the pen was inkless, and I was left wordless and idealess. Back to the writing board.

O-Pun the Book

September 20, 2012

Samuel Johnson said, “Puns are the lowest form of humor.” If this is true, then my humor is stuck on the bottom of a barrel. I love puns. I love to hear them. I love to use them. I love to read them. They’re jest punny.

I especially enjoy reading books by authors who use puns in their writing. For me, that makes reading the book aloud to a group twice as much fun. It’s also a perfect way to introduce wordplay to students. Here are three of my favorites.

O-pun Book One

On Tuesday I read Library Dragon written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael P. White to my third graders. Before beginning, we discussed puns and wordplay. I had a burning desire for my students to appreciate Deedy’s humor. I fired them up by throwing out a few puns of my own.

Library Dragon is filled with creative wordplay. When a school advertises for a librarian who is thick-skinned, is on fire with enthusiasm, and will help stop book damage and loss, Miss Lotta Scales is hired. The problem is Miss Lotta Scales is a real dragon and takes her job description literally. She refuses to let anyone touch a book. Teachers are hot under the collar about the situation. When a little girl teaches Miss Scales the value of sharing a book and a story, the librarian sheds her scales, and the children warm up to her. Deedy and White both have a knack for using wordplay in text and illustrations to make this one hot book!

O-pun Book Two

You haven’t seen a real silly billy until you’ve seen The Three Silly Billies written by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Barry Moser.  When Troll at the Trollgate Plaza won’t let the Three Silly Billies cross the bridge because they don’t have enough “cents,” the Silly Billies decide to form a car pool to share the toll. They blow up a pool, jump in, and wait for others to join them. Troll thinks they’re all wet. But when the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack all jump into the car pool, enough money is collected to cross the bridge, and the grumpy Troll is left to deal with a Giant problem of his own. Palatini’s text is filled with catchy language and moves along quickly to maintain interest. This book will tickle your punny bone!

O-pun Book Three

Candace Fleming is prolific when it comes to writing picture books, novels, stories, and biographies. She knows how to entertain readers. One of my favorite books is The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. Talk about punny! The author has filled the pages with colorful characters such as Mr. Frost, who has white hair, Ms. Bucky, who grinds her teeth, Miss Playwright, the drama teacher, Ham Samitch, who loves to eat, Victoria Sovaine, who loves herself, and Ms. Paige Turner, the librarian. Then there’s the new teacher, Mr. Jupiter, who is there to whip the challenging fourth grade class into shape. He’s an out-of-this-world teacher! At the end of each chapter, readers will find a moral as Candace Fleming takes them on a hilarious romp through the halls of Aesop Elementary School.

Ms. Paige Turner might agree the moral of this blog post is to grab a book you enjoy and read it!


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