RESOURCES & INSPIRATION
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators - scbwi.org. Don't wait to finish writing your book, or even to start writing it. Join SCBWI today! Even if you're an introvert like me, know that community is important and leads to improving your craft and making wonderful connections with other talented writers and illustrators. Take advantage of workshops and conferences that help you keep moving toward your writing goals. SCBWI membership is the best resource (and worth every penny) if you're serious about writing for children.
Publisher's Weekly - Stay current on industry news, book reviews, and authors. https://www.publishersweekly.com/
Susan Dennard's (HarperCollins YA author) blog and newsletter for writers - http://susandennard.com/links/for-writers/
Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Current Year's Edition) - Guide to getting published. Book publisher and agent listings with submission requirements.
Writer’s Magazines - The Writer, Writer’s Forum (U.K. publication), Writers’ Digest. Available at your neighborhood Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Every now then it’s nice to get validation of what you’re doing intuitively or just get a little good advice when you’ve hit a brick wall.
INSPIRATION FROM DREAMS & MUSIC
Do you ever get story ideas from dreams? Here are few of mine.
DREAM OF THE ORACLE
The character in Brooklyn’s Fairy Tale that came to me in a dream is . . . drum roll . . . The Ivory Opossum. The dream wasn’t very detailed, but it was full of emotion and atmosphere. In it, he was a white rat, but I wanted to change him to some other animal, and my husband suggested an opossum. I got up, grabbed a legal pad and wrote a page long character sketch of the Ivory Opossum, most of which remains in the story. This happened during the outlining stage of the story.
DREAM OF THE NEON WISTERIA
Some elements of the scene depicted in The Witch’s Magic Bean Dream illustration (from Chapter 9) are from a dream I had many years ago. I never forgot it because it was so vivid and beautiful, but also very sad. No, I am not supposed to be the witch, and please don’t ask me what the dream meant to me personally, because that’s err . . . personal.
DREAM OF THE MESSAGE IN THE SNOW
The idea of a message in snow in the book involves the opossum. In my dream, I was in a strange house and stepped outside. It was snowing and on the ground was a silver tray covered with snow. On the tray, was a message traced by fingertip. I took the tray back inside the house and read the message. Not a thrilling dream, but the message was very eloquent (which I couldn’t quite reproduce). If you read Brooklyn’s Fairy Tale someday, you’ll find out who receives the opossum’s secret message.
THE HATS THAT DIED: WITCH'S HAT, WIZARD'S HAT, GNOME'S HAT, CONICAL HENNIN
As I wrote Brooklyn’s Fairy Tale, the thought of four kinds of hats and the premise of things looking very similar, but having different connotations or meanings was in the back of my mind. In the Middle Ages, aristocratic women and sometimes princesses wore hennins. Yet, the conical hennin looks like a witch’s hat, which looks like a wizard’s hat, which also looks like a gnome’s hat. You get the idea. I was fixated on having a hat border on the book cover, but then came to my senses. The illustrator humored me, but I think she was very relieved about the defunct hat border. The drawing below is Elisabeth Alba’s rough thumbnail sketch of the hats that didn’t make it to the book cover.
Music that lingered in my head while I was writing Brooklyn's Fairy Tale is like the "soundtrack" of the story. Check out these artists on the internet: Declan Masterson - Fairy Child (from the album Drifting Through the Hazel Woods), Jillian Goldin - Walking in the Air (from the album Through Sand & Snow), and everything on the Kiss the Boys Goodbye (vol. I) and Always in My Heart (vol. II) albums - compilations of songs from World War II.
To the unpublished writing talents out there, write your story. It’s never too late, and at least you won’t wax poetic about what might have been. To that end, here’s my humble advice on giving writing a try. How Brooklyn's Fairy Tale is received remains to be seen, so please take this with a grain of salt, and if you're working on your book right now, I'd love to hear about your journey.
First, no matter what your personal writing style, most folks can probably benefit from an outline. Outline every chapter, whether you want to start writing at the beginning, middle, or end. If you’re missing a piece, it’s okay. Jot down what you’ve got and leave placeholders. You’ll probably change the outline a few times anyway before it all starts to gel, but the value of this is that you have started. You’ve wrestled that idea that’s been running wild in your head and pinned it down on paper.
2) AVOID FIRST DRAFT PARALYSIS & ETERNAL REVISIONS
When you start a draft don’t scrutinize every sentence so much that you’re barely moving or practically frozen. And remember, you don’t have an editor (yet!). The editor is you, and no one but you is going to see that embarrassing first draft. On the first round, I kept revising with a red pen first, then entering my edits electronically for individual chapters. I realized it would have been more efficient to complete everything (or almost everything first), and then revise just before heading into the 2nd draft. When I read popular books it’s apparent to me that the writer doesn’t resolve every single detail or offer a perfect explanation for everything, but the story still works because she gives readers what they want – a good story.
3) FIX THE BIG STUFF & KEEP GOING
See the forest – not the trees. Sometimes when I review a chapter I’ve completed, I just know something’s wrong. It's not syntax or diction, but major things like plot twists, or storyline sequence, a character issue, inconsistencies, one scene written three different ways without an obvious winner, etc. Sometimes I know exactly how to fix what’s wrong. But sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on it. I just know intuitively something doesn’t feel right. I panic, and then self-doubt sets in, but eventually, I figure it out. It’s a good thing when you know in your bones something’s wrong. Something positive will come out of it. Shrug off the self-doubt and keep going.
4) BE MOODY & PRINT A COPY OF YOUR DRAFT MANUSCRIPT
One day I got some ideas for chapter 9 on the morning commuter train en route to work, and was suddenly in the mood for chapter 9, even although I hadn’t written most of chapter 7 yet. Do whatever works for you. I know some amazingly prolific writers like Amanda Hocking can churn out stories like Krispy Crème donuts, but don’t compare yourself to others. (By the way, Amanda Hocking's Cinderalla story truly inspires me, although I don't read paranormal teen romance.) Don’t feel guilty because you fell off the wagon and didn’t work on your story for a few weeks. Life’s busy with children, day jobs, errands . . . Get back to your self-imposed schedule, and print off a copy of what you’ve finished so far. Physical evidence of hard work is a huge boost to your ego and offers instant encouragement.