One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received came from author Candace Fleming. This advice transformed my picture book process and made my writing much stronger. What was it? Look at your book as a series of scenes.
When I’ve discussed this light-bulb moment with illustrator friends, they look perplexed. They naturally see their stories as a series of scenes—perfectly illustrated in full color, of course—and assume everyone else does too. Sadly, my author brain doesn’t work that way.
So what is a scene? Most of us are familiar with the idea of a movie scene, or a scene in a play. But if you’re not an illustrator, you may have never considered scenes in a picture book. Here are a few basics.
To determine if your scenes need work, try paginating your manuscript or making a dummy. This will help you more clearly assess them. If you have trouble figuring out where to add page breaks, your scenes may need work. Another trick is to make a list of the scenes in your story. Summarize each with a sentence. Can you boil your story down to 12-14 sentences?
Once you get the hang of seeing in scenes, you’ll look at your picture book in a whole new light. Give it a try!
Lisa Amstutz is the author of 100+ children’s books. For more about her books, mentorships, and critique services, see www.LisaAmstutz.com.
My husband, Kurt was thirty minutes into a three-hour bike ride when he had a stroke. And crashed. He woke up surrounded by biking friends and EMTs. The trip to the ER revealed that both his hip and clavicle were fractured, and he couldn’t move his left leg.
I was amazed as I watched the ER staff. I saw no hustle. No obvious sense of urgency. The same was true when he was moved to the ICU. Again, there was no alarm, no hustle. Not one person yelled, “STAT!” but the amount of work they accomplished was amazing.
As I watched these professionals, it occurred to me that I should try this methodical, efficient, stress-free movement from task to task to increase productivity in my writing life.
When a patient arrives in the ER, the doctors have a protocol they follow. Kurt’s fractures had been identified, but they weren’t addressed until the brain bleed was under control. The other items aren’t being ignored or forgotten, but there is no use fixing a broken hip if bleeding in the brain can’t be stopped.
The hospital staff begins each day with an assessment of the patient’s condition – something we can easily do with our writing. They then form a plan and check off each item as it is accomplished. Their mantra is to stay focused, stay calm, and reach out for help if they’re overwhelmed, all excellent writing advice.
Writers may have one, two, or even seven irons in the fire, but to move forward productively, we also need a protocol:
Ready to give it a try? Set up your own productivity protocol (STAT!) and find yourself moving methodically and efficiently through your writing tasks.
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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