Thursday, November 26, 2015

Give Thanks for Picture Books

November: the best month of the year. Snuggly fall weather, a hot cup of chai, Thanksgiving, my birthday and now...a celebration of picture books.

Check out Picture Book Month's website for posts from a picture book author or illustrator explaining why they think picture books are important. With critics predicting that "digital will kill the print book star", print books, especially picture books, need our love and gratitude.

I could never fathom a world without The Story of Ferdinand, The Little House, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Picture books take you on a journey. It starts with lovable characters and rhythmic language and colorful pictures. It opens up the imagination and you find yourself sitting along with Ferdinand in the middle of bull ring refusing to fight. Or fright takes over when you accidentally become a rock when Sylvester couldn't think of anything to wish for and you wonder how you'll ever get out of this mess. The story doesn't end once you turn the final page. It lives on in your heart and imagination. And all the better if the story is shared with a loved one, snuggled side-by-side.

So give thanks, not only for good food, good friends and good times spent together, but give some love to all the wonderful picture books.

flip the page to a world of imagination,

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oops!...I used it again

You ever really pay attention to casual conversations and take notice of the words repeatedly cluttering the ether, including what falls out of your own mouth? Like most people, I am guilty of overusing the word "like" more times than I can count...and that's only within one sentence.

Writing is no different. So...that...just...then...walk...look...was...just a few of the words that continually show up in first drafts. That's where revising comes in handy. Most of these words can be deleted on the spot. Sometimes it fits and should be left alone. Sometimes tweaking is necessary: rephrasing, rearranging, or plain old cutting. But be careful when turning to a thesaurus for help. Replacing "look" with "gaze" over and over just creates a new monster. Plus, the mood you're trying to convey can change the instant you replace "walk" with "strut" or "stomp" or "slink".

Repetition isn't limited to a single word. Phrases and actions and ways we show emotion tend to pop up over and over. It's one thing when a character has a unique trait or a certain way of expressing herself, but if every single time my main character shows her fear through a "racing pulse" or "rapid heartbeat," readers' eyes start to roll.

When revision fails to pick up all the redundancy, that's where critique groups and beta readers swoop in and save the day. It took one of my beta readers to point out my overuse of "beating hearts". I dumped the "pounding chest" and unfortunately picked up a new bad habit, the "twisted tummy". Thankfully, not within the same manuscript.

No matter how many other eyes review your work, overused words, cliches and actions will slip through. Putting a draft aside for a good chunk of time is essential. Then you can take a fresh look and catch anything that drowns your story in repetition.

So, just know you're, like, not alone. Look over your work, get feedback, then set it aside for refreshed eyes. That's the key to ending redundancy.