A Black Belt’s Guide to Writing: The Eyes Must See All Sides

Yvonne Ventresca Author Photo (1)Here at Nerdy Chicks Rule we celebrate strong women so it is our privilege to welcome author Yvonne Ventresca to the blog. Yvonne, who holds a third degree black belt in Isshinryu karate, shares how a martial arts principle can apply to writing. Hope you all enjoy A Black Belt’s Guide to Writing by Yvonne Ventresca.

 As both a young adult novelist and a third degree black belt, I love to look for the overlap between the martial arts and creativity. Part of the philosophy of Isshinryu karate is represented in the eight codes called the Kenpo Gokui. “The eyes must see all sides” is one of those codes which can be applied in multiple ways to writing.

See the Scene from a Secondary Character’s POV: 

 In a self-defense situation, it’s obvious why we’d want to be acutely aware of our surroundings. But there’s a philosophical application to “the eyes must see all sides” as well. During a conflict, it’s helpful to consider the other person’s viewpoint. In writing, if we narrate a scene from a single character’s POV, we should still take into account the other characters’ perspectives. After all, each person is the main character in his/her own world.

In a tense scene between our main character and her boyfriend, for example, the boyfriend brings his own background and emotions to an argument. What is the boyfriend’s goal in the story? What’s at stake for him? This can change his response and reaction.

See from a Fresh Perspective

 When we think about seeing all sides, that can also refer to the potential readers’ Gaiman quoteperspective. We don’t want to stunt our creativity worrying about this in early drafts. But during revision, a fresh set of eyes are key. Working with a critique group or critique partner is an opportunity to see our story from another viewpoint. It’s also helpful to take time between revisions. Neil Gaiman said, “The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes . . . When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before.”

 See the Big Picture of a Story

 When it comes time to revise, it’s beneficial to look at a story overall. For a picture boPandemic_cover_with_seal SMALLERok, this might mean making a dummy. Author Tara Lazar has a helpful post with information about how to create one.

For novels, we can create a reverse outline. Basically this involves writing an outline based on what we’ve actually written (as opposed to what we planned to write.) It can be a simple table, instead of a traditional outline format, noting the characters, events, and timing of each chapter. Or it can focus on specific areas we want to concentrate on during the revision. (I provide an example in my summer school post from last year.)

Another idea to try is Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript technique. She provides more information on her website, but basically the concept is to print the novel on as few pages as possible (she suggests thirty) so that it can be spread across the floor. This provides an overall perspective we don’t get from a thick pile of paper.

See the Finer Details

 BlackFlowersWhiteLies_coverIn the martial arts, when you’re blocking a punch, specifics like posture, stance, the angle of your arm, and its distance from your body are all important. Little changes can have a large effect. This is similar to writing and word choice. The thesaurus provides several options for “walk,” but there’s a big difference between a stroll, a march, and a hike. Another way to “see” a manuscript (once the big picture changes are made) is to focus on each word. Precise language (and grammar) can elevate a story. One way to achieve this detailed view is to read the manuscript aloud. I always find this to be painful but enlightening.

See the Gap as Inspiration

There is often a gap between our own skill level and
the skill of those we admire. It’s always a humbling experience for me to watch someone masterful perform a kata (a predetermined sequence of moves) that I’ve been practicing. The same goes for reading an excellent story. Ira Glass has a great quote about not being frustrated by the gap – there is a one-minute video of his full quote here. Overall, we can use the disparity between the book that we respect and the one that we’re writing as an incentive to improve.

Yvonne Ventresca is the author of Black Flowers, White Lies, a YA psychological thriller coming in October. Her debut YA novel, Pandemic, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and will be available in paperback later this month. Yvonne has been both writing and studying the martial arts for over a decade. She was recently promoted to third degree black belt in Isshinryu karate.

To connect with Yvonne:

Newsletter | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Buy links:

Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

Bonus: An inspirational quote selected by Yvonne! And if you’re a writer and haven’t signed up for Kidlit Summer School yet, check out the details HERE.

Mind the Gap

 

March into Writing

So the year started off for me with some type of flu that took me down for almost four

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Rebecca shows how we felt at the end of the retreat: Ready to take on anything. (But she was the only one of us brave enough to climb up to the edge.)

weeks. There went January! Needless to say, I spent February trying to make up for lost time. So when March rolled in, I was ready for work, inspiration, and motivation. And I got it with three awesome writing related events scheduled back to back for the first three weekends of the month. There were many awesome takeaways from each one, but I’ve picked just a few to share that can be applied both writing and life.

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With nerdy chicks Rebecca Petruck, Jocelyn Rish and Kathleen Fox.

First Weekend in March: Writing Retreat in the NC Mountains with these brilliant ladies. We laughed, we talked, we wrote, and most importantly, we brainstormed a ton of ideas. I learned that one of mine wasn’t really worth pursuing. This is actually very valuable to a writer, and anyone else with more ideas than time to execute them all. Thankfully, I also learned which of my other ideas I should throw my time into. Takeaway: There’s nothing like the collective brain!

Second Weekend in March: SCBWI Southern Breeze Spring Mingle March marks the wonderful Spring Mingle Conference held yearly in Decatur, Georgia. It’s a great event with a great faculty and plenty of hospitality. One of the speakers was agent Tracey Adams, whose talk about the publishing business was insightful. She reminded us that writing requires both patience and the ability to shake off rejections. Takeaway: ONWARD!

MG mafia

Attempting to infiltrate the MG Mafia at the post-conference reception.

This year, in addition to the usual fantastic camaraderie, I was surprised with the honor of being asked to fill in for one of Sunday’s keynote speakers. When writing the speech, I spent some time thinking about the thing that has helped me most as an author, and how to express that to an audience of fellow writers. I challenged them to do what I do when I start a new project, so I gave them this takeaway: Keep Nudging Your Brain into New Territory.

GA book festival

Sharing our books with librarians!

Third Weekend in March: For the first time I headed to the Georgia Book Awards

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With college friend Lisa at The Grill.

Conference in Athens Georgia. Since I received my undergraduate degree from UGA, it was wonderful to be back in Athens for the first time in many years. The city is as gorgeous as ever, and still full of vibrant, interesting places. It gave me the rare chance to hang out with new friends I’ve made in the past year, AND to get together with a college roommate I haven’t seen in over a decade. Take Away: Life is good when you can laugh with new friends at dinner and old friends at lunch! 

Now, full of ideas and inspiration, I’m looking forward to a very productive April. Here’s hoping you all are too!

 

 

 

Kristine Asselin: Stretch Your Writing Muscles

IMG_8233-2-2 (1)“What do you write?”

It’s often the first question people ask when you meet them at a writer’s conference. I find that most people can boil their answer down into one or two categories.

I always struggle to keep my answer concise, because I write in more than one category. YA, MG, Nonfiction, and the occasional picture book. Being flexible in my writing style has been a key reason for some of the success I’ve had.

One piece of advice I always give new writers is to try to write in more than one category. Stretching yourself and having flexibility is often the difference between being a writer and being a published author.

When I started writing seriously about ten years ago, I was all about picture books. My daughter was small and it seemed manageable. Write a novel? No flipping way could I ever do THAT. Are you kidding?

But then I wrote a short story loosely based on my own experience as a teen. I had a longer story that demanded to be told. Hazzah! It was like a bright light suddenly illuminated my writing!

I became a YA writer.

Selling my YA novel turned into marathon. I never gave up on it, but in between querying and revising and writing a new novel, I submitted a writing sample to an educational publisher and got my first work-for-hire contract for a nonfiction book.

That first contract gave me my first experience working with an editor and meeting writing deadlines. Having those first few books under my belt made me more marketable to my agent.

Writing and researching nonfiction topics under a tight deadline gave me a different skill set. It made me work faster. It made me stress less about each and every word choice.

I hear a lot of people throw around this cliché piece of writing advice: Write what you know.

Final CoverBut I think you need to have a broader scope—IF you want to have a long career in writing. Trends come and go. You need to be open to writing what you don’t know. I didn’t know much about women in World War One, but I just finished a 15K nonfiction book for grades 6-8 about that topic. If I’d stayed true to “write what you know,” I would have been too nervous to take the project.

I didn’t know much about hockey. But my debut novel centers on a girl who plays hockey on a boys’ hockey team to the chagrin of her parents, who’d rather her focus on the family restaurant. Finding a friend to help with hockey knowledge, and doing a lot of research helped me make the voice authentic.

Here are a couple of writing exercises:

  1. Try writing a scene in a different genre—if you write contemporary, try writing something historical.
  2. Try writing something for a different age group—if you write YA, try writing a picture book.
  3. Try writing in a genre you’ve never tried.
  4. Try rewriting a scene in your current MS from different POV.

Trying even one of these writing exercises will make you a stronger writer, and who knows, you might find out that you’re really good at something you’ve never considered.

I’ve been doing a workout DVD lately, and the instructor likes to say, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get better.”

Challenging yourself to write in different categories and genres will make you better.

About Kristine

Kristine Carlson Asselin lives in Massachusetts and writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. Her debut YA novel ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT (Bloomsbury Spark) came out in April 2015. She is also the author of fifteen children’s books for the elementary school library market. Kris volunteers with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and loves Harry Potter, Doctor Who, classic rock from the 70’s and 80’s, and anything with a time travel theme.

She is a proud member of SCBWI-New England, a contributor to the Sporty Girl Books blog, and a host for the weekly twitter chat #MGLitChat. Kris does query package critiques under the alter-ego @QueryGodMother and loves doing school visits for kids all over New England. Follow Kristine on twitter @KristineAsselin and learn more at http://www.kristineasselin.com.

Buy Any Way You Slice It here:

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Picture Books, Problems, and the Quotable Yoda

I’m an author, and one who mainly writes picture books. Every day, when I sit down at my computer to work, I try to think of new picture book ideas to work on.

That’s when I realize I have a problem. A real problem. A panic-worthy problem.

I don’t have anything to write about!

(See what I mean about a problem?)

Luckily, my college experience beat something into my brain that has served me well, even now when I do nothing at all with my college (or graduate) degree. It’s a simple rule of life, applicable to anything, apropos to everything. Even writing picture books.

All problems have solutions.

To find a solution as a scientist, I was taught to find the right protocol and to rely only on things that are true. And where I went to school, there was quite a bit of Yoda-quoting as well (well for it – I will tie it in, I promise!). So that’s what we are going to talk about today in this post: how to solve the problem of writing a new story.

Finding the right protocol

When I was a scientist, I dealt with proven techniques and tested procedures. When I became a writer, I quickly realized that I was most effective – and most efficient – when I used proven techniques and tested procedures.

I’m not trying to imply that writing a picture book is like following a recipe. The magic that happens when you write a publishable story is not something anyone can tell you about. What you can learn is how to write a technically correct narrative. The rest is fairy dust and rainbows.

But back to the protocol, I can certainly tell you that secret:

  • orangutangled coverLimit yourself to 500 words. I’m finding in today’s market, even 500 is considered long (the last picture book I sold had 22 words in it).
  • Write stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Young children need to be grounded in the reality of the world of your story before they can understand or appreciate it. So avoid the pitfall of jumping too quickly into the story. Remember, your story doesn’t take place on any old day – it happens on that day that the world became different. If you don’t tell the reader how things normally are (in that good story beginning), how will they understand the significance of the change? Similarly, young readers need to be satisfied at the conclusion of the story – the “happily ever after” moment, if you will – so you have to leave room for that.
  • Use no more than 10% of your word count for the beginning, 10% for the end, and 80% for the middle. As much as your readers need grounding and resolution, you don’t want to bog the story down with these things. Get to it, get it done, move on.
  • DDM coverMake use of the rule of three. Remember the Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff? Those are the classic examples but most literature utilizes the rule of three in determining “how much plot” is necessary to be satisfying. So put your main character through at least three hurdles (more often, three failures and then a final success) over the course of your story.

Relying only on things that are true

Obviously, there is much, much more we could discuss, but that’s a lot for one blog post. So I’d like to shift gears and talk about truth.

The purpose of science is to expose the truth about the universe, to take something mysterious and make it less so. The purpose of literature is basically the same. So in all these scientific steps to writing that I take, my goal is to expose and convey a universal truth through character and through theme.

Truth in character is harder than you’d think. That’s because the picture book main character has to be true to the reader’s experience and to the author’s experience.

The temptation when creating a main character is to focus on the charismatic, the character’s talents, skills, and gifts. But a trick to keeping your character true is to balance the flair by imbuing him with flaws. Remember who your reader is: a child who probably feels on the wrong side of right most of the time. That child wants to be able to identify with the main character – and it is the flaws that make that possible.

Truth in theme is often what separates a good, publishable picture book manuscript from a fun romp. A lot of writers – even experienced ones – focus so much on creating compelling characters and crafting a gripping plot that they forget that the primary role of literature is to expose universal truths. Now, the scope of a picture book is obviously not the same as WAR AND PEACE, but we still need to deal with universal themes. Is your book about friendship? Family? Is it about finding your place in the world? About learning patience and perseverance? Whatever it is, make sure there is something more to the story than a bunch of punch lines. Experiencing the theme, seeing the truth – that’s what makes a book re-readable.

Putting it all together

Writing a good book can be a problem. But all problems have solutions. For me, the solution involves the steps I’ve outlined above.

Except…I left off a step. And it’s kind of an important one.

You have to find a way to put all the things above together in a logical way. And that’s where some of the art of what we do as authors comes into play.

Snoring Beauty, Sudipta Bardhan-QuallenAs much as I am a believer in following tried and true protocols, each of us has to find the formula that works for our story – one that allows the character to go on meaningful quest in a way that makes sense. To make it even more complex, it will likely be a different set of steps for each story. In essence, we reinvent the wheel every time.

So what do I hope you take from this post? Please know I’m not saying at all that a story can’t work with four failures before the main character solves the problem, or can’t be published at 700 words. You find what works for you, just as I’ve found what works for me. While all problems have solutions, your solution may be different from mine.

But at least you know now that there is a solution. And that’s what I hope you take away. Every day you sit down to write, no matter how problematic it is, there is a solution.

Which means it is not impossible.

And if it’s possible, it can be doable.

And if it is doable, well – remember the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I hope you all choose “do.”

What Flowers Remember

flowersToday we welcome back author Shannon Wiersbitzsky, who we previously interviewed about financial literacy as well as writing. Shannon is returning today as a guest blogger to discus writing, gardening, and how writing is like gardening! Shannon’s latest book, What Flowers Remember, launched this month. In celebration of this, there is a giveaway at the end of the post! Thank you Shannon for being our guest. Shannon’s post follows:

You know those beautiful home gardens? The ones featured on Pinterest or Facebook that are bursting with color, not a weed in sight, picture perfect wicker baskets loaded with cut flowers or fresh vegetables of the season. Yeah. That. Is. Not. My. Garden.

Despite my suburban existence, I like to think of myself as a gardener. The idea of planting seeds, nurturing them, and then reaping the harvest pomegranate floweris immensely appealing to me.  Its all the actual work that gets a bit dull. Starting out is the easy part. I’m full of ideas and inspiration. Then as the weeks and months drag on, I lose a bit of steam. Ok, I lose a lot of steam. The poor bean plants sag as they wait for me to come pick. If they could give me a holler, I ‘m sure I’d get an earful.

As writers, if we’re not careful, the same thing can happen to our manuscripts. We start out loaded for bear. Ideas to spare. Eager to outline plots and characters, and to get writing. We have energy to burn.

As the first sprigs of green come to life, in the form of pages and chapters, we pat ourselves on the back, our energy high, our spirits soaring. We’re sure this will carry on forever.

Then it rains. We struggle with the next plot twist. A heat wave makes being outside unbearable. We begin to dislike our own character and doubt this story idea had any merit in the first place. Then when we finally get to the garden, we find its almost taken over by weeds. We scrap a thousand words in an effort to find the good stuff.

spanish moss trail flowersAnd of course we must battle the temptation of the next energizing idea. When one story is a struggle, it is so easy to get wooed by one of the many thoughts that constantly whiz back and forth in our minds. Those ideas can be so shiny! They look terrific. They feel new and glossy and full of promise. And of course we are completely capable of convincing ourselves that if only we set aside our current work and switched gears, then oh the words would flow!

Of course weeds will grow in any garden. Rain will fall. Heat waves will sap our energy. And we’ll be tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t give in!

Writing takes extreme patience. It takes the diligence to write day after day, week after week, whether that writing yields a single paragraph or several chapters, we must keep going. Every word is progress. I have a mantra I like to tell myself when writing doesn’t flow. It’s this. Word by word, page by page, a story grows. Jot  that on a sticky note and put it where you write.

Like my garden, a work in progress doesn’t always look picture perfect. Know that you will get muddy. There will be annoying bugs. And know that this is perfectly normal! morning glory

Writing involves tremendous work. Sometimes it means sacrificing bits we adore so that the rest can grow. But it will grow. Maybe not as fast as we’d like. But the shoots will rise. The leaves will unfold. And before you know it, you’ll be reaping the rewards.

Thank you Shannon for that great analogy. I agree 100 percent. Writing is work…. but the rewards are beautiful! Readers, take a moment to find out about What Flowers Remember, then enter the super-easy to enter giveaway!

Most folks probably think gardens only get tended when they’re blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That’s why I enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best. 

Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker’s Ferry, because here they come. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he
can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for
no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save
as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her. What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

“[Delia’s] frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go. …What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys.” — Kirkus Reviews

*Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Shannon_Wiersbitzky_Author_Photo_2012 Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author, a hopeless optimist, and a lover of nature. Her first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was nominated for the William Allen White award. Born in North Dakota, Shannon has called West Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Michigan “home” at some point in her life. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, one rather dull fish and her never dull mutt Benson.

Find out more about her here:

Website: www.shannonwiersbitzky.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

Twitter: @SWiersbitzky

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

Super-Easy to enter Giveaway:flowers

Enter to win a copy of What Flowers Remember. All we need is your name and an email address, so we can notify the winner. The contest runs until Midnight May 20, 2014. For Double Entries, leave a comment about writing, gardening, or this post!

 

 

 

 

 

Three Questions with Dr. Mira Reisberg

Smiling-MiraI met Mira Reisberg earlier this year when she invited me to teach at the writing school she founded, the Children’s Book Academy. It’s been my privilege since then to have already co-taught one course with her and I’m about to launch another course on May 19. Her official bio is below, but don’t let all the titles and accomplishments fool you — Mira is wonderfully warm, down to earth, and fun to be around. I’m happy to be welcoming her to Nerdy Chicks Rule today.

1. You call yourself a “creative adventurer” (which I love!). Where did you get your creativity and your sense of adventure?

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I was taught fairly early on that the things of greatest value are the things that can’t be taken away – creativity, heart and intelligence. My family was poor and we never had a vacation, but, we did have books and art supplies. We also had a mighty Oxford Dictionary, which I loved. In the anthology Just Like Me I wrote about my mum giving me art supplies and saying, “I can’t give you a beautiful world, but you can make one for yourself.” I am so grateful that we were empowered in this way. I learned early on that if I framed things in terms of creativity, I could pretty much do anything. So when I started playing around with computers in 1985, I looked at it as an art tool or a sophisticated etch-a-sketch and that took the fear away. I have drawn, painted, and written my way through some pretty tough times but now my personal art is pretty much all joy. This is such a touchstone question for me – creativity as a tool for transformation. I think creativity comes in so many different forms including things like decorating, cooking, gardening, etc. that are transferrable if you have the confidence or courage to try. I’ve taught tons of people to do thing they never thought they could do and to me that too is a form of creativity. Being a creative teacher is about demystifying things and putting them in a systematic sequential order that is also accessible, personally meaningful, and fun. Some of this I learned getting my PhD in education and cultural studies (focus on kid lit of course).

In terms of being an adventurer, to me that means keeping an open mind and being willing to walk through fear and the unknown. And while doing that in the creative world is natural to me, doing it in the physical world, apart from traveling, is a whole other ball game. Climbing things, riding horses, crossing logs etc. is terrifying. Fortunately as I get older and a bit more confident in my body, things like that are getting easier.

2. You’re a wearer of many (and I mean MANY) hats — artist, educator, professor, literary agent, literature advocate, founder of the Children’s Book Academy — an indubitable Renaissance Nerdy Chick, if you will! Can you give our readers some advice on balancing so many interests and roles?

Ha!! You are asking the wrong honorary nerdy chick about balance. Being a super creative and fairly driven head, heart, and hands person, my body has taken a bit of a beating from overwork. I suspect I’m hooked on serotonin from challenging myself so much. Recently I joined a gym and am working with a trainer. It’s a really culturally diverse gym with all ages and body types, which I love. I used to love Oscar Wildes quote, “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” But now I’m looking for that elusive thing called balance. Let me know if anyone finds it.

3. What should Nerdy Chicks who want to become published authors do to find success? 

Success comes to people who work hard and study their craft, who are patient, passionate about what they do, willing to take risks, and persistent in revising and submitting their work. There are two skills that most writers need to be successful – one is storytelling- being able to write a good story with a great beginning, middle, and end and the other is being an exquisite writer who tells their story with perfectly fabulous writing. I’ve seen lots of great storytellers who have passages of exquisite writing but it’s overall choppy. The best writers are those who really know the craft of writing so that every word is pitch perfect. This is why Sudipta and I created From Storyteller to Exquisite Writer: The Pleasures and Craft of Poetic Technique – to answer that need. While we will be covering the storytelling elements as we walk students through writing their manuscript, the heart of the course is exquisite writing, whether that be humorous writing, heartfelt writing, rhyming, non-rhyming, fiction, or non-fiction. I don’t know about Sudipta, but I’ve had tons of serotonin happening while developing this course. Perhaps because I’m so proud of it as a work of art in itself, and excited by the good that it’s going to do for those who take it.

Dr. Mira Reisberg is an award-winning children’s book illustrator, as well as a published writer, art director, editor, former professor and children’s book mentor with over 25 years of experience in the industry. Following the success of many of her Children’s Book Academy students, she founded Hummingbird Literary. You can find her at the Children’s Book Academy website or at the Hummingbird site (although she is not currently accepting unsolicited submissions). 

To find out about Mira and Sudipta’s ground-breaking course starting May 19th visit this site. This is the only time that Mira will be co-teaching this course with Sudipta and it should be outrageously fabulous and fun! And, please join Mira and Sudipta for a free webinar on poetic techniques in your writing!

Add Poetry to Your Prose

SAMSUNG CSCApril was National Poetry Month, a fabulous celebration of one of my favorite genres of literature. Earlier this month, we celebrated on this blog with Spine Poems and a wonderful interview with Children’s Poet Amy VanDerwater. But now that the month has drawn to a close, we wanted to give you some ways to keep the lessons of National Poetry Month close to our (writer’s) hearts.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here are three poetic devices that all writers should consider adding to their author’s toolboxes:

  1. Meter. Basically, think rhythm, not rhyme (necessarily). Have you ever listened to a song that was so catchy that you couldn’t keep from tapping your feet?  Find ways to add that pulse to your prose. If you can get your reader so caught up in the cadence of your words, he or she won’t be able to put your book down.
  2. Onomatopoeia. Not only is that the most fun word in the world to say (and if you use it in your writing, you can ask people, “Did you notice all the onomatopoeia?” And that might be your only chance to use that word naturally in a sentence in a given day) but it is actually a very powerful technique to bring more of your reader’s senses into the scene.  Think of how much more powerful it is to use a well-placed crash, hic, achoo!, or BANG! Than simply saying, “All the dishes fell to the floor,” or “Right in the middle of my speech, I started hiccupping.”
  3. Alliteration. Did you notice above when I was extolling the virtues of meter, I used phrases like “pulse to your prose” and “caught up in the cadence”? The simple addition of alliteration makes the phrasing more musical, more lyrical – more poetic. When you’re searching for the perfect word to form your sentences, think about those words in relation to the others – and find the alliteration to elevate your writing.

We’ll see you next April for the next celebration of National Poetry Month!

PictureBy the way, in case you are interested in learning more about incorporating poetic techniques into your writing, please consider joining me for either my new online course From Storyteller to Exquisite Writer: The Pleasures and Craft of Poetic Techniques  at the Children’s Book Academy or for a free webinar titled Why All Writers Need to Know Poetic Techniques and How to Use Them  on Monday May 12th  at 9PM Eastern/ 6PM Pacific Time!