Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Tips from a Famous Author, Part 1

Mind your manners today, kids. We have a guest! Her name is Jacqueline Jules, and she is the author of those beautiful books up there, plus quite a few more. Click HERE to learn more about ZAPATO POWER:  FREDDIE RAMOS MAKES A SPLASH, the fourth book in a series of chapter books. This one makes me think of summer! Click HERE for UNITE or DIE:  HOW THIRTEEN STATES BECAME A NATION, a picture book about early America, of course.

Jacqueline is also a poet. Since it will be April in a few days, and April is Poetry Month, Jacqueline has agreed to give you some professional poetry help. Isn't that nice? You can thank her by visiting her site,, and also by buying her books.

Take it away, Jacqueline...

by Jacqueline Jules 
(Read the sample poems by clicking on the titles.)

1. Don’t be chained to rhyme. Rhymes drastically reduce word choices and can send poems in nonsensical directions. Think about what you really want to say in your poem and if you can’t say it with rhymes, ditch them.

2. Embrace alliteration. The repetition of a beginning sound can reinforce the mood or subject of your poem and create a musical quality, akin to rhyme. For example, my poem “Olympic Skater,” uses a number of words beginning with an “s” sound.
3. Use everyday experiences. Anything can be a powerful topic. One day I found a missing blue sock and wrote a poem called, “Finding a Sock.”

4. Juxtapose. Linking unlike things or experiences can be powerful in a poem. Gliding down the slopes one day, I remembered how clutzy I used to be in middle school gym. It inspired a poem called “Graceless Girl Skis Down Slope.” 

5. Examine your endings. I’ve had more than one poem accepted on the condition that I kill the last two lines. While my initial reaction is always horror, I usually come around and see that the poem stands alone without an ending that hits my reader over the head with a fry pan.

6. The internet has pictures. When I am trying to describe something, I often do a search on Google images. Staring at a photograph can help you paint a picture with words.   

7. Don’t forget the other senses. How does it smell, taste, touch, and sound? While sight may be a dominant sense, particularly in our video driven society, adding other sensory details will enrich your work.

8. Lists are good. Providing details, particularly in groups of three, gives your reader a stronger image. In my poem, “Daddy and Venice,” I remember a ride through the Grand Canal in Venice with “velvet seats, a Persian rug, and a singing gondolier.”  
9. Rearrange the lines. Sometimes a line works better on the top than in the middle. And don’t be afraid to cut off the top if you have created a stronger beginning.

10. Economize. Poetry is all about economy of language. Cross-examine each word and be sure it’s needed and evokes a strong enough image for your reader.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vaguely Vague

Words like nice, good, okay, fine, fast, cool, great, big, small, etc. are pretty dull, pretty vague, don't you think?

PUT SOME ENERGY INTO YOUR STORIES using words that paint a picture.

As a writer, one of my favorite things to do is to come up with the perfect word. Sometimes that word takes the place of several, and then I'm really proud of myself. For example, I recently wrote this sentence in my work-in-progress:

Timmy jumped, feet out then in, across the room.

Okay, so jumped isn't as terrible as walked or egads...went!

But I wanted to paint a picture of Timmy's weird and energetic jumping, so I changed it to this:

Timmy hopscotched across the room.

I patted myself on the scapula for that one.
(LOL. I'm getting carried away, but you see my point, right?)

The next time you write something, be your own proofreader. Take a red pen and circle the dull words. Replace them with more exciting words.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back to Basics

Does your brain hurt? Have I been working you too hard?

HERE's a quiz from Grammar Blast on capitalization and punctuation. It's short and fun, and you score points. Use it to:

1. Find out where you need practice.
2. Be a show-off (if you didn't miss any questions).
3. Create a quiz of your own and test a classmate or your teacher. Ha! We ALL need practice.

Go for it.

: )

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Are You Thinking?

Better yet, what's your character thinking?

It's nice to put a character's thoughts in your writing, like this:

I scanned the list of flavors looking for my favorite ice cream.
Where's the chocolate chip? I thought.
(With the italics, you could probably drop the dialogue tag.)

So, here are a few sentences.
YOU create the thought that comes after, OK?

What am I thinking??

He rode faster and faster on his bike.

Mrs. Oberholtzer believed that the kids would do their homework over the holiday.

Frannie didn't like being outside when it was hot and humid.

I love to write, but I have a problem with writer's block now and then.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Let's Talk

Great dialogue tells us something about the character. It moves the story along, and you find out things you wouldn't normally discover in the narration alone. Try this:

Draw a line down the center of a paper. (I'd do this here, but I can't figure out how! Ack.)

LEFT                                                      RIGHT

Character's name                                      Different character's name

List adjectives that                                     List adjectives that
describe character                                     describe character

Snippets of dialogue                                  Snippets of dialogue


Kaitlyn                                                    Trevor

bossy                                                      quiet
conceited                                                geeky
talkative                                                  shy
sporty                                                     Star Wars fanatic

"You should raise your                              HOW ABOUT IF YOU TRY THIS SIDE?
hand in class."

"Don't you LOVE my hair?"

"And then Ann said that Jul said
that I could come over, but
she changed her mind and said I

"I am the star of the hockey
team, obviously."