Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great celebration to ring in the New Year. I also hope that after you are finished watching football and nursing whatever *ahem* hangover you might have, you are ready for DAY ONE of the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, fire up your laptops, your tablets, your PCs because today you may start writing your first picture book draft for the challenge!
Here to kick us off is none other than author Tara Lazar – the founder of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). I am so tickled to have Tara here today because it is she, after all, who set us on this path by having us set down all those great ideas in November. To make it even sweeter, Tara is offering one lucky 12 x 12er a picture book critique. Hooray!
To enter to win the critique, you must be an official challenger and have signed the form as explained here. Then, leave a comment on this post any time during the month of January for one point. On the last day of the month, we’ll check in and if you completed a picture book draft, you can comment there to get another point. I will draw a winner using Random.org and announce on February 2nd.
Now, Take it Away Tara!
What better place to begin the 12×12 challenge than at the end?
Seriously—the end of your story.
Most of us know the importance of the first line in hooking the reader. Well, the end is where you can lose them—forever.
At the end, your entire story can fall apart. Splat flat on its face. Writing a wondrous 450 words means nothing if the last 50 are wimpy. Your reader will shove your story back on the shelf with a mere “meh.”
The key to writing a memorable picture book, a best-seller, is not in its readability but its re-readability. Parents aren’t going to plunk down $16 on something their kids will only want to experience once. You’ve got to punch-up the ending.
As a creative writing major in college, I rarely finished a story (and somehow they gave me a diploma anyway). I thought there was some mystical formula for ending a story that the professors were holding hostage. I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do. No one explained that you finish a story by…well…finishing it. Don’t let it linger. Sit down and get’r’done!
Now I realize that’s not great advice. So I’m going to tell you three things about endings that I wish I knew back then.
- Wrap presents—not endings—with neat little bows.
When in life is any solution so tidy? Crossing all your i’s and dotting all your t’s—strike that, reverse it—tends to feel unsatisfying because it’s too easy, too clean. It’s not honest. So be careful about making everything scream “happily ever after.” Leave a little opening for your readers to crawl through and explore what happens next. Let their imagination tie up the loose ends.
- The circular ending can be clever and fun.
As you approach the conclusion of your story, re-read the beginning. Is there any way to echo the opening, to bring the characters back to where they started, but have them arrive as changed beings? They’ve taken an emotional journey and they’re not the same characters they were a few hundred words ago, so what about the beginning has changed at the end? In my picture book THE MONSTORE, one of the final lines is the same as the opening line, with just a few key word changes that make it totally different. And the reader can imagine another story jumping off from this old-but-new sentence.
- The twist extends the story beyond the story.
Bringing a twist to the end means you’re adding something unexpected that leaves room for more story to happen once the book is closed. Remember point #1 above? The twist tangles the loose ends. Think of CLICK, CLACK, MOO. Was the story over when the cows and chickens got their electric blankets? Nooooo. The clever duck never brought the typewriter back! And the flock demanded a diving board! Hilarious! So think about what little twist you can tack onto your story to give a final guffaw. A story that ends on a smile guarantees it will be read again and again.
Tara Lazar is a picture book author, mother, foodie and boogeyman assassin, currently booked at 3am nightly. She’s the creator of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoidMo), the picture book writer’s alternative to NaNoWriMo, held every November on her blog at http://taralazar.wordpress.com. Her first two picture books, THE MONSTORE and I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK will be released by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2013 and 2014. Follow her kidlit capers at http://twitter.com/taralazar.Categories: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Critiques, Giveaway, Goals, Julie Hedlund, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Tara Lazar, Writer, Writing