Welcome to Day Five of NAPIBOWRIWEE – National Picture Book Writing Week – as we now ask ourselves if we are NUTS for agreeing to try this ridiculous experiment of writing 7 picture books in 7 days. Always around Day Five, I start to bang my head against the wall and mutter to myself, “Paula, you and your nutty ideas! WHY did you start NaPiBoWriWee? I’m so SICK of writing picture books. I can’t do this anymore. I am burned out. Ooooooh I bet everyone hates me for torturing them with this ridiculous idea!”
Yup. Welcome to Day Five, AKA “Burn-out Day.” This is where some folks start to fall behind and feel badly that they are unable to come up with a fifth picture book draft. This is where some folks wonder if they should just quit.
Day Five is TOUGH. And if it makes YOU feel any better… BREAKING NEWS: I FAILED TO WRITE BOOK NO. 4 YESTERDAY. Absolutely flamed out. I was gone ALL day from around 10:30 AM to 9:30 PM for work meetings and I had to see a friend visiting from out of town. Plus I had a writing deadline for a picture book of mine that is being published (another Lee & Low book but the pub date is TBD) that I had to get done first. By the time I got home, I was EXHAUSTED. I sat on the couch and valiantly tried to write a picture book. But I came up with nothing.
BUT… instead of feeling badly about it… I was PROUD OF MYSELF. Why? Because at least I came up with what I thought was a super cute idea and a fantastic title. So I thought, “Saturday is my day off. It’s the weekend. I’m lucky and have no social obligations and no work deadlines on Saturday. So Saturday will be PICTURE BOOK DAY!”
And now I want to cheer YOU on. Today’s blog will feature some advice from guest author CAROLYN CRIMI (website: http://carolyncrimi.com/), who has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her book PUGS IN A BUG (Dial 2012) for our contest. Woo hoo!
(Keep reading after the break for advice from Carolyn and more updates!)
So for those of you who have posted comments saying that you are falling behind and you are “only” on Book 2 or 3, or you are not writing and feeling burned out…. PLEASE HANG IN THERE! If you are physically and mentally so exhausted that you cannot write a full draft today, at least brainstorm some ideas or do what Julia Cameron in THE ARTIST’S WAY calls “morning pages.”
(If you’re not familiar with JULIA CAMERON, please check out her website here: http://juliacameronlive.com/ She writes these really fun inspirational guides on how to inspire your creative self. Okay, her books can get a little New Age-y, but she is very sincere and I find her books to be a great read when I am feeling burned out or insecure about my own writing. She’s got a three-part series on THE ARTIST’S WAY and I just got another book of hers called THE VEIN OF GOLD: A JOURNEY TO YOUR CREATIVE HEART which is also a fun inspirational read. I wrote a blog about her last year here: http://paulayoo.com/blog/?p=822)
The whole point of this NAPIBOWRIWEE exercise is to make sure that we all at least write SOMETHING every day. As a writer, you need to “exercise” your creative writing muscles! Plus, you should always allow yourself a small amount of time – whether it’s 10 minutes or 1 hour – to treat yourself to just sitting down with a nice cup of hot tea and a notebook and write anything from your heart. I think it’s important for us to do that as writers.
Now, to help get rid of your burn-out and get you back on track for DAY FIVE, here’s some advice from picture book author CAROLYN CRIMI!
Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. Her publishing credits include Outside, Inside (Simon & Schuster, 1995), Don’t Need Friends (Random House, 1999),Tessa’s Tip-Tapping Toes (Orchard Books, 2002), Get Busy, Beaver! (Orchard Books, 2004), Boris and Bella (Harcourt, 2004), Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies (Candlewick, 2005), The Louds Move In! (Marshall Cavendish, 2006), Where’s My Mummy? (Candlewick, 2008), Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates (Candlewick, 2009), Principal Fred Won’t Go To Bed! (Marshall Cavendish, 2010), Rock and Roll Mole (Dial, 2011), Dear Tabby (Harpercollins, 2011), and Pugs in a Bug (Dial, 2012). When she’s not writing, Carolyn enjoys giving Author Talks to elementary schools all over the country. For more information, visit her website, www.carolyncrimi.com. Be sure to visit her new blog,http://deartabbycat.blogspot.com/.
Carolyn’s advice is short and sweet… just like her advice! She says:
“One problem I see with many unpublished manuscripts is that they are way too long. Most picture books these days are under 600 words. I had an editor once who, after I submitted what I thought was my last draft, would always say, ‘Great! Now can you trim 200 words?’ It drove me crazy but always made the story stronger.”
I’ve mentioned picture book length in previous blogs. A reminder – picture books can be as short as 200 words (Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott winner KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON is only 268 words) but they can also be longer for older readers (up to 2000 words, even!). For non-fiction writers, books tend to be longer anyway – mine clock in around 1600 to 1800 words.
My general rule of thumb is to keep your book to 1000 words or less. That’s five double-spaced typed pages.
But to try out Carolyn’s advice… when you write today, see if you can write a picture book under 600 words. Before you write down a sentence, think about the shortest way to say that sentence.
Speaking of short writing, coincidentally I happened to pick up this writing book at the bookstore. It caught my eye, I was curious, so I bought it. (I’m addicted to writing books!) It’s called WRITE LIKE HEMINGWAY: WRITING LESSONS YOU CAN LEARN FROM THE MASTER by R. Andrew Wilson. It’s a fantastic book that talks about Hemingway’s life as well as how he approached writing. It also gives advice and exercises on how to write succinctly like Hemingway.
For example: “When Hemingway talked about what guided his writing style, he referred to what he called his ‘Iceberg Theory.’ The idea was simple enough: as the visible part of the iceberg suggests an unseen depth below the surface, so writing should show as little as possible to suggest a world more complex than what appears on the page. In a word, the Iceberg Theory commands writers to do one thing: omit.” (p. 43)
The book goes on to suggest leaving out anything “nonessential” to the emotion you are trying to create with the story, leave out the backstory, unnecessary details and “filler” dialogue.
So as you write Book Five (if you have survived this week so far!), let’s focus on keeping today’s book under 600 words and apply this Iceberg Theory to our writing. Let me know how this works out for you! I’m first and foremost a novelist, so I find picture books to be INSANELY HARD, so I will try to keep my book under 600 words as well this time around.
Thanks again to Carolyn Crimi for stopping by with some SHORT advice. Remember, she’ll be giving away a signed copy of her latest book, PUGS IN A BUG (Dial 2012) for our contest. As long as you have commented on a blog or emailed me (paula at paulayoo dot com), I will include you in the contest drawing for Carolyn’s book plus our other fun prizes. (BTW to clarify: Do not worry if you have NOT completed 7 picture books in 7 days. You will still be part of our prize drawing.)
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s DAY SIX blog. I’m hoping to have that posted by 8 AM PST on Sunday because I have a friend’s wedding reception to attend.
Until the next blog, here is your daily KITTY INSPIRATION PHOTO! This time, it’s baby Charlotte. She likes to hang out by my computer while I write. Sometimes she curls up on my right arm, which makes it hard to move the mouse or type. LOL! But anyway, here she is, waiting patiently for you to write Book #5 for her today! How can you disappoint this little adorable kitty? Don’t let her down! WRITE!
Thanks for hanging in there, my NaPiBoWriWee friends! Remember… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT!