Valuable advice and summation of what it takes to ‘keep it simple’ yet relevant and powerful in the art of storytelling. Something I sometimes struggle with but endeavour to achieve in picture book writing.
“A big story is about a small moment.” ~Matthew Dicks
Think about that for a moment (not a small one).
Every book you have ever read is about a small moment—an epiphany when a character realizes an emotional truth with complete clarity.
Let me provide examples:
THE MONSTORE is not just about a store that sells monsters. It’s about a brother and sister who learn to appreciate one another and cooperate.
7 ATE 9 is about number 9 realizing his worth.
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD is about not judging someone before you get to know them.
Before I read Matthew Dicks’ STORYWORTHY, I used to phrase this “small moment” concept differently. I would explain that a story, especially a picture book, required an emotional core. Now I realize that is an amorphous blob of a statement.
In other words, not very helpful.
Likewise, if I told you my manuscript…
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Republished from Sheryl Gwyther‘s writers’ blog …
When I run writing classes, people often ask for hints on how to become better writers (and so do children – thankfully, for a future of great stories still to come!)
These are the essentials I pass on…..
Have an active imagination. Always ask, WHAT IF?
Be an acute observer of people, nature, places and things. Learn how to develop an ‘artist eye and ear’. Be aware of all your senses, totally.
Read voraciously (like a foraging seagull) with a hunger for story.
Learn by osmosis, and from the wise advice of the experienced and the successful; to glean more information on how to do it better from books and the web, and also from workshops run by those who have been ‘through the mill’ themselves, and who’ve gained much knowledge from their wide experience.
You will face manuscript rejections – regard them as your apprenticeship. Even experienced writers get manuscripts rejected. We are a small market in Australia. Unfortunately, a fact of life.
Never give up. If you are truly meant to be a writer, perseverance and toughness is essential at those most vulnerable moments of painful rejection or ‘so-so’ reviews. But you will pick yourself up, learn from the experience and start editing and re-writing to make your story even better.
- Join a small writers’ group you can trust in – everyone there will understand the mountains we travail in this job; they will support, just like you would do in return.
- Join a support network like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators … a global network. We have an excellent regional group here in Australia and New Zealand.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY!
Image: Johannes Vermeer’s portrait of a writing woman in 1670-71. One of his beautiful studies of women in the sublime light of his studio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Writing_a_Letter_with_her_Maid