Posted in Craft, PB, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Posts about Writing Picture Books

Here’s a flashback to the archives—a collection of posts especially of interest to picture book writers:

Creative Picture Book Formats

Fractured Fairy Tale Picture Books

How to Submit a Picture Book

Keeping Up with Picture Books – new ones come out all the time

Magazine Story or Picture Book?

Picture Book Fails

Picture Perfect Picture Books

Picture Book Problems

Rhyming Picture Books

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

If there’s a picture book topic you’d like covered, please let me know.

Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

On Scene Please

I did it again—summarized an important scene. Fortunately, my critique group caught me. Of course, my main character should have been there instead of her mother telling her about it. Duh! I’d removed all tension.

September C. Fawkes said, “Anything the story has been building and building and building up to, should probably be a scene.” This statement really clarifies for me why I shouldn’t have summarized at that point in my story. What happened was a big deal.

C.S. Lakin said, “…focus on the emotional change in the character as he reacts to the new situational development that occurs…” If my character only hears the news her emotional changes are going to be weaker. And we don’t get to see the other character changing nor his emotions. I’m distancing my character and my reader by telling.

“Scenes tend to be much better at delivering tension and insight into character.” – TD Storm

So, why would I put something important off scene?

  • I wasn’t sure what should happen.
  • It felt difficult.
  • I was rushing to move forward.
  • I’d forgotten one of the main issues in my story.

All that’s okay in my first draft, but when revising, I need to look more closely at my scenes and my summaries. Here’s a definition by Eva Langston of the difference between the two: “In fiction writing, a scene is when the writer puts us directly into a specific place and time and shows us what’s happening through dialogue, action, internal thoughts, and description. Summary, on the other hand, is when the writer tells us something without creating a full scene.”

Basically, we summarize to jump ahead to the next important scene. Summaries include transitions such as time passing or characters doing mundane acts that don’t move the story forward. Summaries can set mood or tell the reader something they need to know. They’re telling instead of showing.

Sometimes summaries give backstory at the beginning of a book, but not in a boring way. Read the example Eva Langston gives in her article, “Summary and Scene in Fiction Writing: How and Why to Use them Both.”

But scene is what we really read for. It’s where we experience what’s happening with the character. It’s the drama. And I need to remind myself of that when writing.

In conclusion, here’s a quote for me to remember: “A good rule of thumb is, the more important the moment, the more likely it needs to be rendered as a scene.” – Fawkes

Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Rhyming in picture books is great if the rhythm and rhymes are perfect. But forced rhymes or rhythm can spoil a story. Ann Whitford Paul says, “Rhyme without rhythm is like bread without butter.” Or maybe butter without bread! Many editors say they hate near rhyme: cat/path, box/blacks. Awkward sentence structure to force a rhyme makes for awkward reading. And the text has to make sense.

I like what editor Paula Morrow says, “Poetry is an art form requiring a lot of discipline in language. It’s two different ways of writing, and the successful rhyming story requires both: First the heat of inspiration, then the cool control of revising and refining.”

Since I don’t write rhyme, I thought I’d share some great resources.

Good Story Company founded by former literary agent Mary Kole has this post:

How to Write a Rhyming Picture Book

Picture book Author Josh Funk has a number of posts about writing picture books. Here are a few on this topic:

Don’t Write in Rhyme

Rhyming Is All About Rhythm

Picture book Author Laura Bontje has a number of helpful posts:

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Rhyming Picture Book

Taking the Stress Out of Metre and Stress

Do Rhyming Picture Books Work Like Songs?

Author and Publisher Brooke Vitale has this interesting post:

How To Write a Rhyming Children’s Book in Perfect Rhyme!

Journey to Kidlit has this post:

3 Musts When Writing Rhyming Picture Books

Poet and Author Joy Moore blogs” about poetical structure often using picture books for examples.

And finally, I thought I’d share some rhyming picture books that I’ve enjoyed:

Leo Loves Mommy

American Desi

Federico and the Wolf

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad

My Hair

What are some of your favorite rhyming texts?


Image by SarahCulture from Pixabay

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books, Writing Life

The Beatryce Prophecy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The Beatryce Prophecy (Candlewick Press, 2021) by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is an unusual but appealing story.

It starts with a prophecy about a girl who will “unseat a king.” Next we meet Answelica, the goat, whom the monks fear. One day Brother Edik finds a child in the pen with the demon goat. Beatryce doesn’t remember anything but her name. And king’s soldiers are searching for her.

Kate is a two-time Newbery medalist and Sophie is a two-time Caldecott medalist.

Read about Kate’s many novels here, her picture books here, and her early chapter books here.

Check out all of Sophie’s children’s books here.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, Promotion

Building Your Own WordPress Website

If you read this post, you’ll see that WordPress website builder is my first go to, plus it has information on choosing a host.

After you’ve written and prepared content for your website (see this post if you need content ideas and this one for preparation info), then follow the steps below:

Chose a WordPress.org theme

  • Finding a theme can be difficult. It’s not just a matter of layout or colors (much of that can be changed), but it’s also about what a theme provides: blogging, e-commerce, etc. I like what this article says: “Your goal should be to find a WordPress theme that has a design you like, is fast, and can be easily customized.” Read more of “Selecting the Perfect WordPress Theme – 9 Things to Consider” for more tips.
  • It can be overwhelming as there are so many choices. Narrow those choices by using the search. Try “author,” or “illustrator” or “writer” or “art” or even a specific color. Remember the images will be yours (although some themes provide banner images that you may keep).
  • Pick three to four themes that appeal to you, then examine each one closely.

For example, Context Blog is a theme aimed at blogging. There are two links on the page to check out, first a Preview. The Theme Homepage link takes you to a Demo. What do I like about this site? Clean, easy to use, good for multiple authors blogging together. I like that blog posts have a light-colored background. The font is easy to read. There are a variety of ways your home page can be set up.

Kidsi Pro offers a rainbow of colors. Besides checking out the above issues, make sure you read the text and the tags—these will tell you a lot. In the tags on this one, it shows blog, so that means it’s easy to set up a blog page. The Theme Homepage didn’t work. Uh oh! I’d steer away from this one then.

Green Wealth is one I discovered by clicking on Latest Themes. Green is my favorite color so it appeals to me. I like that the image is formatted as a circle and I like the soft green backgrounds. When I click on the Demo I see that it has animation. I like the floating dots, but I don’t like the way the picture moves. Animation can slow down a website too, so something else to keep in mind.

  • If necessary, choose more until you can narrow it down to one or two.

Get opinions on your choices from others. For example, one writer I know picked a black background. When she showed it to her daughter-in-law, she felt it was too dark. We changed the background to a medium dark gray blue. But that wasn’t something built into the theme. I had to use CSS to customize it. (And unless you have programmer knowledge or help, I can’t recommend this.)

  • Verify it has what you need as far as what you can build and how much flexibility it has.

Check for tags such as custom colors, custom background, custom menu, sidebar, columns.

  • I also like looking at the ratings and active installations of a theme. If no one is using it, that would make me nervous.

Once you have your host, and have set up a domain name, add your theme.

  • Go to your WordPress dashboard. There is usually access directly from your host. Also, you can access it by your url. Example: myauthorwebsite.com/wp-admin. Of course, a password is required.
  • On the left column, you’ll see Appearance with a subcategory of Themes. This is where you add new themes.
  • Easiest is click Add New Theme and use the search box by entering the name of the theme.
  • Once you’ve added a theme, you must click Activate.

Customize your theme. This is where you make it uniquely yours. (Note: not all themes will have each of these options. Some will have more; others less.)

Under Appearance is a subcategory of Customize. Here you can change:

  • Site Identity. For example, mine is set to Site Title: Susan Uhlig and Tagline: Children’s Author.
  • Colors. Here’s where you change the Background color and Header Text color.
  • Header Image. What image do you want to show on every page? These are usually a short and wide picture. Recommended is a 1000 × 250pixel image. Other size images can be cropped to fit.
  • Background Image. Instead of a solid color background, you can have a background image. Be wary of getting too busy.
  • You’ll probably ignore the Menu tab.
  • Widgets. This is where you can add sidebars and footers. Some themes come with them already.
  • Home page. It can be static or show most recent blog posts. The latter is my preference as there is always changing content on the home page.

All that and we still have not created a page or a blog post.  But the groundwork has been laid. And can be changed. For example, I had a red-toned background for a while, then switched to green.

I’ll do a post on adding pages and blog posts next.