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Archive for October, 2013

Outlining does pay off. I had an idea of a story, not much detail wise, but I thought it’d be interesting. Teacher assigns students to find penpals over the internet and one student ends up with a penpal who is out of this world, literally. It would be a children’s book, upper middle.
Rather than start it my usual way, which is to just start writing and see where it takes me, I decided to outline the book. I had my characters. I had a rough outline, just basic stuff. I started my chapter outlines. I did not get past the first chapter.
I just probably saved writing five pages here had I gone the other route. By doing the outline I figured out that I did not have enough for a story. I couldn’t even start the story. It began so and so got an ‘F’. Okay, what then? Nothing. Either I had a huge writer’s block, or this isn’t going anywhere with me.
I’ll keep the idea. I still like it. It just won’t get written for a while.

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Backgrounds

My blurb book covers are boring. Actually I think they’re okay, but upon having an excellent idea, I am revamping the book cover for my third travel book. After gazing at other people’s covers I am thinking to combine a background behind my photo, something bland, no, that’s not what I mean, something that won’t distract from the picture and the title. A texture. I want a visual texture instead of a color. And I have those. Blurb doesn’t have any, I checked, but throughout my life I have always liked to take pictures of texture – a rock, a path, walls, faded doors, windows, trees.
The photo I have selected for this book is that of Niagara Falls. That takes up most of the book anyway. The background I see for this is canvas. Wouldn’t you know it, when I went to the EdTech conference this year I got a canvas bag. Hot dog. Take a picture. Upload it. Stick it in.
From now on I’ll be looking for more texture shots. These will be coming in handy.

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Writing the first scenes isn’t hard, but then it starts getting tricky. Now I have to think about what I want to happen. When will Libby meet her brother? Will she encounter a rapid squirrel? And what about the fox I thought I might add? Usually I let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes I end up thinking of a solution whether or not it was what I had, sort of, planned, or I get bored, don’t know where I’m going and give up, putting the story in with tens of others that have been abandoned, good ideas that have gone bad.
Outlining is making me think things through. I guess in my old age I need more structure or I’ve forgotten how many stories I’ve started only to abandon later on.
Flipping back to my short outline, I get a push and write on. When I get stuck, I go and wait awhile before continuing with my scene synopsis until I finally reach the end of the story.
Wow, that wasn’t so bad afterall.
I now have the skeleton of a story. I now have a story that may have vanished because I couldn’t start it right away. These outlining people may have something. Next step: using this to actually write the story. Stay tuned for that.

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It is now time to expand my outline. I thought first to write a synopsis of each chapter. It then occurred to me that I don’t create chapters until the third or fourth time I edit my story. I have trouble creating chapters and that could be a problem if I write for the lower grades. I’ve come across books that are exactly eight pages for each chapter. Exactly eight pages. I don’t write that way.
I stare at the blank page. I know how to start the story, I don’t know how much will end up being in the first chapter. Then it comes to me – forget chapters, write scenes or chunks of scenes and worry about the whole chapter stuff later. With that off my chest I begin to write and it goes well.
An opening scene can be daunting, but I’m not writing an opening scene here, I’m just writing what I want to happen at the start of the story. I write the first scene, and then the next. For my fictional storm story it would go something like this:

Libby is at home alone and she’s happy at home alone. She can listen to her iPod and not have her parents bothering her about chores or that it’s too loud and she’ll go deaf. Unbeknownst to her, on television, newscasters are warning folks about a storm that’s approaching. It is worse than the models showed and they are advising people to take cover. Libby, of course, doesn’t here any of this.

It’s here that I’m thinking, you know, another great character to add would be a grandparent. They could be the one telling her to turn the music down. They could be at a doctor’s appointment right now.

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