Jen Garrett wants to know:
When picking mentor texts, do you focus on one element at a time (e.g. plot structure, page turns, theme, character) or do you look at all of them at once?
Great question! I choose my mentor texts intentionally. Every new work-in-progress needs thorough concept research, so that is generally where I start. I wouldn’t want to write a book that is already been done. Therefore, I attempt to locate as many books as I possibly can on a similar concept. I want to make sure that my concept is fresh and unique, and stands out as something that has never been done- not the same plot, dialogue, sentences, characters, not anything.
From there, I may utilize other mentor texts based on my needs. For example, if I am struggling to form relationships, I may research examples that exhibit great interaction between characters. If I am writing a sparse text, I study sparse mentor texts and the interplay between words and art. Therefore, I certainly do focus on one element at a time, and it is different for each book.
Do you ever go back and re-read a mentor text with a new focus in mind?
Based on my last response, this happens all the time. For example, I might look at several books that infuse humor seamlessly one time. But, when a new work-in-progress emerges, I might check out the same book and look at it from a character or emotional standpoint. You have to let your manuscript lead you. If you read a lot of picture books simply for pleasure, you may not need a single mentor text for you work…. just good regular reading habits.
Do you type up the texts of picture books into manuscript format? What are the pros and cons to this kind of practice?
I have done this on occasion. It can help you “live” in the text for a few moments and absorb pacing, plot, or structure long enough to learn from it. If you are researching books that you love, it might help you put your finger on the it-factor. It can also analyze relationships between pictures and words, if you take notes on the illustrations, as well. There is a huge list of pros for this practice, and I personally have not experienced any cons. But, keep in mind, I don’t rely too heavily on this process and once I am finished typing it out, I generally don’t come back to it again unless I am struggling with an aspect the text covers. I think if you stay in a text for too long, you may absorb a little too much of a book subliminally without even realizing it. Luckily, if you have a well-read critique group, they should be able to catch subliminal leaks if they appear.
Do you have more mentor text questions for me? Leave them in the comment section. I will feature your questions on future segments of Ask Carrie.
-It All Starts with a Picture- from Writer's Rumpus Blogger Carrie Charley Brown
I took a mental trip back to preschool at the 2015 New Jersey SCBWI Conference. One quote, from author/illustrator Denise Fleming did the trick: “Every time you draw a picture you begin to tell a story.”
The story of a character…
-3 Things all Writers Needs to Know- from Children's Book Academy Blogateer Kirsti Call
Conferences are great for reminding us that we are not alone. I connected with my writing tribe at the NJSCBWI conference just a few days ago, and I was reminded of these 3 essential things.
(Read more of this post by Kirsti Call HERE.)
-What Can I Write About? What to Do When the Well Runs Dry- from GROG BLOG blogger Pat Miller
Recently, one of those registered for my upcoming NF 4 NF Children's Nonfiction Writing Conference asked a surprising question. "It's my writing day today and one of my task list items is to ask you for homework. Sounds strange, I know, but I feel like I'm having writer's block on what to do next."
(Read the rest of this post by Pat Miller HERE.)
Did you participate in ReFoReMo this year? I want to hear about your experience and how you are using mentor texts today! Check out submission guidelines for the Revealing ReFoReMo series HERE.