Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trying a Different Genre by Rita Emmett

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
       ~~ Dr. Suess

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a writing project where you don’t know what you’re doing and you are not clear how to do the next step … but you know it is what you are supposed to do?
Last year, I found myself in the middle of that type of journey. It was fun but I simply didn’t know where the path would lead and didn’t have a clear map showing the way.

How did I get there? Eight years earlier, after writing a book for adults to help children who procrastinate, I researched if there were books to directly help children break the putting-off habit. I discovered books for every aged child except little ones.

Yet I kept receiving emails asking help for mini-procrastinators.

For years, I prayed someone would write a book for young children. Then ... Did you ever have a smack-yourself-in-the-head-moment where you knew this is the time and you are the person to do something?

I wrote a picture Book.

And quickly learned two things:
1. I’m not good at it.
2. It’s hard. In less than 800 words, you have to create a plot with conflict, resolution, interesting characters plus a beginning, middle and end.
In the past, I was lucky to work with a terrific agent (who, sadly, does not handle picture books.) So I sent to literary agents my picture book about Patty O’Put-Off, a little girl who procrastinates.
No agent picked it up.

I sent it out again … and panic struck. If no luck with agents, I’ll self-publish it but I’ve never self-published anything.
So I wrote a “practice picture book”. That way, if nobody accepts my Patty O’Put-Off, I will already have learned the process.
My “practice book” begins with a favorite quote attributed to Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if a fish is judged by how well it climbs a tree, it will live its entire life feeling stupid.”
I had never written anything but self-help for adults. My first practice draft was 2,000 words. Attended a seminar, heard about the 800 word limit and decided to trim it a bit.

Did “power-editing”. Then took a webinar and learned each page must be written to the illustration. Reviewed my text and realized the first 4 pages were the same two fish talking to each other.
So I decided to give my character, Farkle Shark crazy goofy sayings. His big sister Sparkle would mock him and ask can you imagine if that were true. Then a cloud would be over their heads while she imagined whatever it was he said.

This seemed to be a brilliant solution, so I went to, selected an illustrator (who turned out to live in Romania) and put in my first order.
Farkle begins the dialog with a goofy saying: “Holy Mackerel Manhole”. I envisioned a drawing of a mackerel popping out of a manhole in the middle of the street and by-standers looking astonished.
Brilliant, yes?

The day after sending the order, my 11-year-old neighbor who was one of my readers told me that all kids will think that a manhole is a man’s butt hole.

After several awkwardly worded emails, that is exactly what the Romanian artist thought also. We revised it and if you ever read the book, and see the mackerel popping out of a mailbox, you will be one of the few people who know that “Holy Mackerel Mailbox” was not the original quote.
Jumping into a totally new genre meant that every day I discovered something new to learn, but the journey was great fun. I loved every minute of it (even the embarrassing awkward manhole moment of it)

The book is simple and funny.
Farkle Shark is cranky. His big sister Sparkle always criticizes his goofy sayings. But when Big Bully Boy called him stupid because he can’t climb trees, Sparkle jumps to her brother’s defense. Her advice, plus an adventure, changed his attitude … and his life.  
Moral of the story: if you ever feel driven to write something totally out of your comfort zone, but don’t know where to start … if you seriously want to achieve something but don’t know how to do it … first, make the decision that YES, you will do it.

Then do your homework. Learn as much as possible. Get started. Each time you can’t figure out the next step, keep learning. Google it. You might stumble across articles, webinars or Youtube explanations that move you along.
Ask for help, maybe find a mentor. Even if you are a super-capable person who takes pride in being knowledgeable and competent with everything you do, that doesn’t mean you can’t pause to seek help once in a while. You might be surprised at who or what appears to help move you along.

And if you find yourself feeling stupid because you can’t figure out the next step, allow me to recommend a newly-released book where a shark named Farkle will teach you that JUST because you don’t know how to do THIS thing, it doesn’t mean you are stupid.

You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Carole for featuring my article about writing Farkle Shark, You Are Not Stupid. You have a fantastic website. Thanks also for ALL this good work you are doing.