I think every author has their favorites and I figure they’re their favorites because they’re the ones they’ve read.  Here are the ones I’ve read (most or all of):

Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb

This is probably my favorite because Nancy Lamb did a lot of the work for me.  She read some of the best books about writing, then summarized them and applied them to writing for children (which most writers of books about writing don’t do). Every time I get in a jam, I go to this book first.

James Frey Darn Good Novel

I’m not typing the title of this book. But the author is James Frey

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

I had a hard time buying this book.  It goes against my personal standards to buy things that have swearing in them or on them.  Movies can’t be helped and, nowadays, books can’t be helped.  Anyway, I finally talked myself into this book after much research and pondering.  I’m glad I did even though I will never say the title.  (I don’t care if people think I’m a prude.)  The second one in the series has a Roman numeral II after the title and it is also good.  James Frey will teach you about Premise.  Nancy Lamb also talks about him and this book in her book, but you’ll want to go to the horse’s mouth for the in-depth coverage.

OK, this third one (Browne and King) is the only non-fiction book I’ve read all the way through (though I may have read all of Frey’s book too, just not all at once).  It’s the most helpful on how to clean up your writing.  I’m not sure that every single thing applies to writing for children though, so I wish they’d write one tailored for that arena.  Nevertheless, in general an excellent and much-recommended book.

Wow, what a bummer of a day.  I was so depressed I cried tears THROUGH my yoga mat.

Then I couldn’t get into writing.  In a way that was a blessing because I did some clean-up work on the entire manuscript.  Stuff like fixing headers and capitalizing chapter titles, making it all the same font again.  (The diary entries were orignally written in a different font.)

Hopefully the housework is all done.

I also did a fair amount of reading over some printed pages of the manuscript.  I hit a snag spot though.  It’s a place I keep running up against and it’s a stubborn problem.  I knew it needed individual attention and I wasn’t up to it today.  So I skipped those chapters and read ahead.

Eventually the much-needed nap came on.  After two hours of freedom, I woke up and faced the music again.

I felt able to take it on.  I fiddled with my library of writing books, tried looking for answers in other children’s books.  It wasn’t till I sat down and started writing about it that I came up with two good old standby pieces of advice:

STICK WITH THE PREMISE

and

THE SOLUTION IS USUALLY SIMPLE

As I wrote about the problem (I love it how writing problems are often best dealt with in writing–although talking them out is also helpful) it became clear to me that this problem would be solved by addressing earlier issues in the manuscript.  It’s like, I had my kids accept their situation too readily.  I had to sow seeds of doubt in their minds in order to keep the action moving forward at this perennial snag point.

That means I’ve got some serious rewriting, but it can be done.  What a relief.  The other beauty of it is that it can come back up again at the end of the book for a nice little twist and resolution.

Ah.

Someone asked me if I have any tips on writing.  The brief answer is yes.

But you know me by now, I can rarely be brief.

As I thought about it over the past few days (it’s more efficient to think than to act sometimes–perhaps all the time), I realized that my writing tips were very similar to my drawing tips.

Since I’ve already written them– I made a list of drawing tips for the boys when I was teaching in the prison–I will be an efficient act-er and not reinvent the wheel.

Here are my drawing tips and you can adapt them to the art of writing:

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR DRAWING SKILLS

by Sue

31 August 2011

1) PRACTICE! Draw daily if possible.

2) Keep it simple. Eliminate unnecessary details.

3) Plan ahead. Map out the subject – make sure the drawing will fit on the page.

4) Don’t focus on details first. Work on different areas of the drawing to make sure you have angles, sizes, and spaces correctly placed before going on to details.

5) Pay attention to directions, sizes, angles, negative spaces around the subject.

6) Pay close attention to direction changes – like fur, hair, and feathers.

7) Draw what you love and draw it often. If you like birds, draw them all the time.

8) Warm up before beginning “important” work. Your first drawings of the day may not be your best work. You don’t have to love every one of your drawings.

9) Get to know your reference material. In a way, you should build a relationship with the subject. Learn to observe accurately, i.e. where light, shadows, and reflections are. Learn how things grow, like hair and tree branches.

10) Remember that you are the artist. Often you will want to stick close to your reference material, but your drawing should be your own expression. It doesn’t have to be a reproduction of a photo. Make the drawing look good on its own, independent of the photo.

11) Learn from other artists’ work. Be inspired by new and old masters. By imitating others’ work and techniques (and with practice) your own style will emerge.

12) Your response to your world is a personal thing. If others like your art – great! Be careful with whom you share your art. Learn to love your own marks.

If it's too clean it means you didn't use it.

If it’s too clean it means you didn’t use it.

I have hundreds of art supplies, but I usually only use a few of them.

This box is perfect for travel, but I end up using it around the house all the time.

I use a pencil to draw the initial picture, then I use watercolor pencils throughout the process.  At the end I use them to accentuate the details.

Most of my work is done in little sketchbooks, so I don’t usually need my large palette full of colors.  But when I do larger works, I love to use my Robert Simmons Sienna brushes.  These little Niji waterbrushes are excellent for small works. 

Today's face.

Today’s face.

I don’t know why I always draw and paint faces.  I think it’s because I’m trying to figure life out and I’m looking for answers or insight in the faces I draw. Maybe that’s it; maybe not.

 

In March I always think of my artist journals and my dad’s birthday.  I remember the weather.  And I often write poetry in March . . . 

 

Which brings me back to writing.  I’m supposed to be on a marathon “write” now, so I shall return to it.