Monday, 11 January 2016

My Top Ten Writing Tips - Lynne Garner

I look back to when I was an aspiring author, smile and ask myself "how did I ever manage to get published?" Apart from being able to string a few words together I knew nothing about the business of becoming published. Yet somehow I managed to become a published picture book writer. However if I knew then what I know now my journey would have been a shorter one. So to reduce the length of your journey here are my top ten tips for writing a story a commissioning editor will hopefully love.

All about a little mouse missing his best friend


Listen to how children speak, what they talk about, the worries they have etc. All of this can be used to fuel your work and ensure you're writing stories children will enjoy and relate to. 


If you get the chance to study poetry, even a short workshop, then go for it. A picture book writer can learn a lot from studying poetry and use that knowledge to add that little extra to their stories.


When writing be aware of your audience and use appropriate words. Don't use 'grown up' or long words when short will do. 


Learn from published authors by reading, reading and reading some more. As you read question how the author has constructed the story, how they make you want to turn the pages, how they use words etc. 


Break down your story into spreads and think of them as scenes in a play. Ask yourself is there something new happening on every page? Have you given the illustrator something to work with? Does the new scene move the story forward? If the answer to any of these is no then you need to have a rethink.


Get your characters talking as soon as possible. Let them tell the story in their own words. It is there story after all.

Focuses on smell in a humorous way  

Try using repetition in your story. Repetition provides a hook, something for your readers to listen out for, to anticipate. Repetition allows them to join in with the story and become part of your characters journey.


Try to include the five senses in your descriptions. What does something smell like, feel like, sound like, look like and taste like? This will allow your reader to connect with the action on the page.


Everyone loves to laugh, so if appropriate include a little humour. This can be in your use of words, the illustrations or perhaps even both.


Have a go at using the magic number three in your story. Think Goldilocks and The Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Three Little Pigs.  

I hope these tips help and good luck with your writing. If you're a published author and you have your own tips please do add them to the comments below.   


Now for a blatant plug - don't say I didn't warn you:

My latest short story collection - Coyote Tales Retold is now available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote - available as a paper back and an ebook.

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:
How to write A children's book and get published
5 picture books in 5 weeks
How to write a hobby-based how to book


Moira Butterfield said...

Really useful comments. Thank you. Investigating poetry is a great one. No not much noting rhymes as getting a sense of rhythm.

Candy Gourlay said...

I have to say as a non-poet I've resisted studying poetry forever. But as an aspiring picture book writer I realise now that I should give it a go. Thank you.

Jenny Causebrook Moss said...

Thanks - great list, both for writing and for formulating constructive feedback for fellow crit group writers.

Michelle Robinson said...

This is a great list, Lynne, thanks. I totally agree about studying poetry, and also how people speak - rhythm and cadence is so important when you're writing to read aloud. A tip I've picked up (at a screenplay writing course, but all of the advice was absolutely relevant for picture books too) is to think about creating an emotion in the audience. If you're not feeling anything, you're not being entertained. I think about each of my spreads now in terms of what they're delivering emotionally. I try and vary the emotion and keep a clear feeling in mind on each page or spread. This also makes it easier to sense-check illustrator's roughs: is the feeling being conveyed as it should be? Thanks for sharing your tips.

Abie Longstaff said...

Really good list Lynne - thanks :)

Unknown said...

Thank you! This is getting pasted into my research file :)

Lynne Garner said...

Michelle - what a lovely tip, thanks. If you don't mind I'll add to my bank of tips and next time I write a new story I'll keep it in mind and see how it works for me.