I’m sorry to mention that word, but I hope you’ll forgive me when I explain that I have a new Christmas picture book out soon and I would love you to be in with the chance of winning a signed copy! All you need to do is comment below and I will choose a winner on 1 October 2021.
A family of giants drop a crumb of Christmas Pudding – but one crumb doesn’t matter, does it? Join Pip and his mother, the mice and the ants as everyone benefits from this giant Christmas bonanza and learns that what might be a little thing for you can turn out to be a big thing for someone else. The Christmas Crumb is published by Maverick at the end of the month and is illustrated by the amazing Alex Willmore. It celebrates the value of kindness, especially at Christmas, so I thought I’d share my tips on incorporating a moral or message into your picture book story.
What is your message? If it’s been done before, how can you communicate it differently? In The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt tackles the subject of everyone having something to contribute and learning to cooperate, but he did it with crayons instead of people!
Is your message communicated throughout the book? Does anything in the plot contradict it?
Are you telling not showing? The story should show the message. You shouldn’t have to spell it out, although sometimes a summary can be a tidy way to end the story.
Are you preaching too much? Don’t forget to include a plot in your story and a sense of fun if appropriate. It still needs to work as an enjoyable experience. In Catch that Cough by Bonnie Bridgman, the plot involves Maisy chasing her cough, who becomes a character in its own right!
Are you communicating something you feel deeply about? If you care about what you are saying, this will feel authentic and come through to the reader.
Could your story be made more universal? In Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, the message of unconditional love is told using hares rather than people. Using animal characters can allow you to widen your scope.
To enter the draw for a free signed book including postage, please leave a comment below. I will pick a winner using a random number generator on 1 October 2021. Good luck!
This weekend I’m celebrating the release of my new junior fiction title, Homework on Pluto published by Maverick, and as part of that I’ll be giving away a free signed copy to the lovely readers of this blog. To take part, just comment on this post and I will choose a winner at random on 15 May by printing them out and putting them in a hat. (A sou’wester probably, judging by the weather at the moment…)
Junior fiction or chapter books are great fun to write. Here are my tips:
Write to the right length. 6-10,000 words are what you are aiming for. So think in terms of 6 chapters of 1000 words each to give you a rough outline.
Keep it punchy. You’ve got a lot to fit in to make a complete book work within this small space, so don’t waste words on lengthy descriptions or long dialogue exchanges.
Write a series. Readers this age (around 6-10) love series. Conversely, your first book should be able to stand alone, just in case it doesn’t get followed up. And you only need present one book to the publisher, as long as it has series potential.
Create memorable characters. Think Mr Gum, Horrid Henry, Flat Stanley… The character is the book.
Utilise humour. Don’t be afraid to be silly. Silliness is underrated.
Thank you to everyone to entered the draw to win signed copies of my new books The Snowflake Mistake and Letter to Pluto. To be in with a chance, I asked you to comment with your favourite writing tip. If you haven’t read the comments, there’s some brilliant tips there including keeping a compliments jar, listening to conversations around you (in the non-stalker sense!), using prompts, spending time with nature and reading widely.
The winner is…. Michelle Zal! Michelle, please email me at lou dot treleaven at sky dot com with your address and the dedications you would like on the books and I will post them off to you.
I had a lovely time recently doing two workshops and some book signing at the Booktastic Bedford Children’s Book Festival, which was held this year at the Panacea Museum. I got to meet author Guy Bass too, author of Stitch Head and about a million other books (would love to be that productive and talented!). The event was sponsored by Rogan’s Books, a new independent children’s bookshop which is not like any other bookshop you will have been to – it even has a secret door! Check it out here.
To celebrate the launch of my two new books, The Snowflake Mistake and Letter to Pluto, I am giving away a signed copy of the two of them. To be in the draw, just comment below with your most helpful writing tip. Hopefully we will get a good pool of knowledge we can share!
Here’s mine: Don’t be afraid to write a terrible first draft. No one will see it! Silencing your inner critic is really hard, but just tell them (or it) that you’ll be letting them out when it’s editing time, and they can feast on your words then but not now.
The moment I mastered this tip, my productivity increased by about 500%! What’s your most helpful piece of advice?
Today I reached a milestone for this blog – 1000 followers! I’m so pleased to have reached such a wide audience. I’ve also been loving hearing the recent success stories some of you have been having with your manuscripts – some mentioned on this blog already, others to come over the next few months. We all know what a difficult and frustrating journey it can be, and to hear that publishers are still keen to accept new authors is heartwarming indeed.
To celebrate I’d like to offer you a present. We all know how hard it is to get a second opinion on your work. Scrub that – an honest and useful second opinion. Family are lovely but will always say it’s ‘good’, even if you give them a pencil and ask them to scrub out whole chapters. Some writers swear by having a ‘beta reader’ – someone to go through an early draft and give them a useful critique before they start submitting. I have recently started doing this with two other playwrights for the short plays I’m working on and I feel it has improved my work hugely, as well as decreasing the sense of writing ‘in a vacuum’. You can find willing beta readers in writers’ groups, online forums, social media groups, or sites where you post work up for others to critique and repay them the favour, such as Authonomy.
Or – as a thank you for being such a lovely follower – you can simply post a comment below and I will pick one out of a hat for a free writer-to-writer critique. (A nice, encouraging one, not a tearing-you-to-shreds one, delivered in confidence by email, not published on the blog.)
It could be for a work in progress, something you are preparing for submission, or something you are already sending out but would like some feedback on from a fellow author. All I ask is that it’s under 50,000 words. For very short works like picture books I’d be happy to look at three.
Feel free to talk about your manuscript in your comment, or if you want to play your cards close to your chest then that’s fine as well, just make a remark so I know you’re in the draw. After a month I will print out this page, cut the comments into strips, put them in a hat and ask one of my children to pull one out, then the winner can email me their work.
Good luck and I look forward to reading your manuscript!