Posted by: nancyisanders | March 17, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book: Writer’s Mini-Retreat Week 4

Last Friday, my writing friends joined me at my house again for another session of our writing mini-retreat. Okay, we had lots of fun and good laughs. It’s just good to get together with other people who love to write for kids, too. And we’re all a bit silly, ’cause we love the world of kids!

But then we got down to work and we really spent some quality time on writing our first draft.

This time I worked on the second half of my middle. Here’s the writing rhythm I followed (and the one I recommend you follow, too!)

1. I determined my writing goal for the day: Work on the first draft of the second half of the middle.

2. I pulled out the plot chart worksheet I had created for my sample nonfiction picture book, Those Rebels John and Tom. I located the page numbers of the second half of the middle in that book and read those pages several times. This helped me get the word count, the voice, and the strategy in my brain.

3. Next I pulled out my research books for my own topic. I also got out my plot worksheet and also the outline I made for this book. This time, instead of researching for an hour and then writing, I researched for about 15 minutes, spent 15 minutes writing a paragraph, researched for 15 minutes, spent 15 minutes writing a new paragraph, and so on. At this stage of my manuscript, I already knew the big stuff and just needed to dig up nuggets to build my text around.

Once again, the text I wrote is waaaaay too wordy. And it has rough spots. But that’s okay! It’s a first draft. At least I got all my thoughts down on paper and typed into my computer.

4. Then, before everyone left, we read our stuff aloud to each other. At this stage of the game, we’re only allowed to give positive feedback and talk about the strengths of our manuscripts. (That’s because I’ve discovered that if I get too much negative feedback BEFORE the first draft is completely written from beginning to end, I tend to shut down and think it’s impossible to write and never complete it. So I think it’s important to wait until AFTER the first draft of a picture book or a chapter in a novel is done and THEN ask for the nitty gritty constructive criticism.)

5. And then we said good-bye until our next meeting…this upcoming Wednesday!

As you may have noticed, I tend to write these picture books in 4 or 5 chunks or writing sessions. This makes it very manageable, especially when so much research is involved. First I write the beginning. Then I write the first half of the middle. In this case, I took an entire writing session to write the turning point or exact middle of the story. Then I write the second half of the middle. And then the end. This gives me a first draft I can then work with.

It’s a very workable pace, especially after I’ve spent so much preparation time in research, developing the plot chart, and brainstorming the outline to follow.

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