Week of July 1, 2012: We’ve Got Trouble!
Friday, July 6—Get Yourself into Trouble
My agent, the fabulous Rubin Pfeffer, gave me an assignment this week. When I sent him a manuscript to review, he asked that I go to book stores and find every book I could find on the subject (in my case, with a similar character). Specifically, I was to look for books published in the last five years. The goal was to discover how many books were out there with a similar character, if the story lines are similar in any way, who had published the books, and so.
What author wouldn’t enjoy taking a couple of days to visit four book stores? (My independent book store, Inkwood, found out that I was an author and teacher, gave me a discount, and asked that I let them know when COWBOY CHRISTMAS comes out because they’d like to have me for a visit. Serendipity on top of serendipity!) But back to the point . . . I plopped myself down on the floor in the picture book section of each book store and pulled books off the shelves. More than once, I stopped to read a new discovery and, of course, I ended up buying a couple of picture books.
As I found each book with a character similar to mine, I tried to determine the central problem of the book. Knowing that would help me know if the book was closely related to my manuscript (or vice versa). Some books I read all the way through. For others I found the jacket flap often provided the essential info I needed.
So what does this all mean to you? I have a challenge for you. Here goes . . .
uReread your latest picture book manuscript.
vGo to your nearest book store and find every book with a similar character. (If you’re writing a pirate story, every pirate book; a dump truck story, all the truck books; a monster story, all the monster books.)
wExamine each book and jot down the central trouble/problem, how the trouble escalates throughout the story, the black moment, and the climax.
xTake your notes home and reread them. Then put them away.
yPull out your manuscript again. Your intent is not to copy anything you’ve examined. Rather, your intent is to make your trouble more compelling, interesting, and/or funny than anything else you’ve read.
zNow you’re ready to revise. You could use the STEPS TO GROWING TROUBLE graphic organizer from yesterday’s post to get you started.
Go ahead . . . get yourself into some trouble on a big scale!