Summer!

IMG_0680 It’s summer! Hurray! And…help!

Hurray because the stress of school is finished and I have my kids around more. I actually do kinda like them!

Help for almost the same reasons. School’s out, my kids are home, and suddenly I find myself trying to do all my normal work plus spend quality time with the family. Guess how that’s working out?

The funny thing is that this happens to me every year. You’d think I’d figure it out. In fact, I blogged about this very topic last year and linked to some of my other online friends and inspirations who were wrestling with the same situation. And yet every year, summer and its scheduling challenges sneak up on me.

What’s a writer to do?

I’ll tell you: this writer is going to make a new plan and a new schedule that balances time for gardening, swimming excursions, hikes, and camping with time for writing, reading, and researching. I’ll get less done than I want to get done—but then, I always get less done than I want to get done, not because I’m unproductive but because I’m occasionally unrealistic in my goals :).

Wish me luck!

How to Write a Book: the Storyboard

Writing life I’m working on a work-for-hire picture book project right now, a project for which I need to assemble 40 pages worth of info on text, graphic novel-type dialog, sidebars, text boxes, and illustration notes. For the first time in my life, I’ve used a storyboard as a writing strategy to help me see the “big picture” of what I’m writing. I’m now officially a storyboard convert: Fitting your story into a visual format is a great creative exercise to help you look at it with fresh eyes.

A storyboard can help you answer questions such as:

  1. Do the page turns pull you forward?
  2. Does the excitement build? Where do surprises or changes of direction occur?
  3. Are there enough scene changes (and, therefore, illustration possibilities) to make this a good fit for a picture book?

I found plenty of info out there on how to create a storyboard manually (i.e., stapling pages together), but I wanted a storyboard where I could move content from one page spread to another, something where I could play and change things without starting from scratch every time. I wanted to be able to type in text, but within a visual layout. Here’s the result:

page

And here’s the how-to:

  1. Create a table 1 row high and 2 columns wide using your favorite word processing program (I used MS Word).
  2. Click to place your cursor inside the box. Enter hard returns until the table is sized as desired. This is your first spread (pages 2 and 3, which are usually the copyright and title pages, respectively).
  3. Click outside the box and enter a hard return (to separate the first table from those following). Select all (CNTRL-A), copy all(CNTRL-C), and paste (CNTRL-V) until your document contains the desired number of tables (14, 16, and 40 are some common numbers—count the number of spreads in a book similar to yours to decide how many spreads to play). 

Note: this is NOT the format you’d use to submit your book, but I find it very helpful as I write and revise. Have fun!

:) Cheryl