Writing Tips: Read What You Write
One day, I sat down and thought to myself: “You should write a picture book. Picture books are fun, kids love them, and well, here’s this brilliant and shiny idea you should make into a picture book”.
That’s basically how I came up with the idea and inspiration for Valentina and the Haunted Mansion. No kidding. It was completely random, like most of the stuff I do.
But the problem is that, while I thought writing a picture book was great fun and all that – I’d barely read any picture books. Like ever. Sure, my parents used to read them for me when I was a kid, but that’s over twenty years ago (gosh, am I that old?). So I had no idea what the ingredients were for a good picture book. All I had was an idea, and in the end, that’s not a whole lot.
So I began browsing the web, trying to find tips on how to write picture books. Sure enough, those tips helped a little. I read that you shouldn’t go into too much detail describing things (the pictures speak for themselves), that you need to make your main characters interesting, that you need to use verbs like ‘dash’, ‘run’, ‘race’, ‘sprint’, as opposed to just ‘walk’, and a lot more.
But I still didn’t know enough to write a good picture book. All I’d been doing up to that point was theoretical. Like a doctor learning everything about how to perform brain surgery, without ever performing it themselves. I had no practical experience.
I went to the library and rented some picture books. It was like I’d been blind the whole time, and suddenly I could see. All those stupid theoretical rules I learned, were reflected in those books, and a lot more.
Then I began writing, and well, the rest of history. But Valentina and the Haunted Mansion wouldn’t be here – or it wouldn’t be the story it is now – if it weren’t for those 20-something picture books. And for my awesome editor. Or my publisher. But that’s another story.
The point of this entry is that you can’t write what you don’t know. Read what you write. If you want to write young adult novels – READ young adult novels. If you want to write horror, READ horror. If you want to write mystery novels, READ mystery novels.