Mascot Blog

Book Publishing: It all starts with the writing…

Each month we have our production team share their tips and insight on a new topic to help you along your path to publishing.  This month they’re tackling a tough one – how can you strengthen your writing?

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Well, first and foremost…

READ! READ! READ!
and
WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!


Professional athletes study game tape and practice regularly. Why shouldn’t a professional writer do the same? Writing is just like any other skill, you need to exercise it.
Below are some fun exercises you can do to hone your skills!


1. Write a short story. It doesn’t have to be anything you will publish or even anything you’ll show anyone, this is just an exercise. This will aid in plot development.

2. Sit in a place where you can people-watch (coffee shop, park, bookstore, etc). Make up stories about the people you see. This helps stretch your creativity.

3. Place one of your favorite characters (TV, movies, books, family members, historical figures) in a new situation and write about it. This will help with character development.

4. Pick a favorite song and write a story around it. This aids in giving your stories purpose and direction.


~DIALOGUE~

1. Word choice needs to fit the age of your character.
For example, see phrase below spoken by 3 different age groups.
Adult: “I’m confused. I don’t understand.”
Adolescent: “Huh?”
Child: “I don’t get it.”

2. Use contractions.
For example, read aloud the two choices below. Note which one sounds more realistic when spoken.
A. “David, you are making too much noise. Do not speak out of turn.”
B. “David, you’re making too much noise. Don’t speak out of turn.”

3. Make sure it serves a purpose in furthering the plot, no useless conversation.

4. Always read all your dialogue aloud. If it sounds awkward or strange to you, it will to your reader too.

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5. Don’t recap something we’ve read in previous narration through character conversations.
For example, if the story has been a series of events leading to a child finding their way home, we don’t need them to then list all those events to the parents on the last page. A simple comment through narration that “she told them all about her adventure” will suffice.


~CHARACTERS~

1. Only have characters that serve a purpose and further the plot.
When you introduce a character to the reader, they need to be important in some way not just a way to get a second cousin’s name in the book.

2. Actions speak louder than words.
You don’t need to list everything about your characters. Let events and interactions in your story tell us who the character is.

3. Readers are intuitive.
You don’t need to tell your readers that a character is brave. We should be able to see it through their actions.

4. Don’t name a character after yourself.


~HAVE A STORY~

This may sound simple and common sense, but trust us, take the time to ask yourself if you have one. Does someone learn something? Is there an obstacle to overcome?

1. Remember the basic elements of storytelling:
Rising action – main character’s “normal state of being” is introduced through interactions and dialogue with lesser characters
Climax – main character is introduced to their problem/conflict/disruption to their normal state of being
Resolution – main character overcomes obstacle and we see how their normal state of being will be forever changed

2. Each book within a series needs to be a standalone story.
The first book in a series isn’t just an intro to the characters and setting – something needs to happen. For example, if in the Harry Potter series all we read about was descriptions of the characters and their normal states, people would skip right over it for book two. If the first book in your series is only a character intro, combine it with the second.


~VERSE~

1. Keep the same rhyme scheme throughout.
AABB
My cat is nice.
My cat likes mice.
My cat is fat.
I like my cat.

ABCB
My cat is gray.
My cat is fat.
My cat is cute.
I like my cat.

ABAB
My cat is nice.
My cat is fat.
My cat likes mice.
I like my cat.

2. Keep the same meter throughout.
This means that each rhyming line should have the same number of syllables. It’s not enough for the last syllable to rhyme – if the syllables don’t match up, you don’t have a rhyme. For example, see the four lines below. You will immediately recognize the lines with the same meter flow better and are easier to read.

I started working on my Social Studies homework
but my purple pen went dry and ran out of ink.
My dog ate my homework.
My computer’s on the blink.

I started on my homework
but my pen ran out of ink.
My hamster ate my homework.
My computer’s on the blink.

3. Don’t force rhymes.
Close but no cigar just doesn’t cut it in children’s books. See below.

Basketball is my favorite game.
All other sports seem so lame.
Sitting in the arena you hear loud cheers.
The team scores lots of dunks and threes.


Quick Tips to Make Your Writing Even Stronger

1. Read your script aloud to your target audience. You’ll be amazed at how much awkward and excess wording you catch.

2. Use past tense. Present tense reads as stage direction.

3. Less is more. Make sure your children’s book script is as short as possible. (For more tips on how to cut words, see our July Blog Post.)


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Special thanks to Production Department Head and Senior Project Manager Laura Carroll, Project Manager Meghan Reynolds, and Production Manager Susan Roberts.  Be sure to write in any questions or comments below and the team will address them in their next blog!

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