Mentor Text Study Questions – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AI’m coming into the final week of ReFoReMo month. (Read For Research Month for picture book writers and illustrators.) Each day we receive five new mentor texts to check out at the library, study, analyze, question, etc… If only my library (anyone’s library) had the five new picture books available on our daily reading list.

So what are some of the questions I ask myself when I’m reading (researching) a mentor text?

1. What is the central question, and does everything in the story try to answer that question?

Yes. Every story must have a central question. A rule I learned the hard way. After having a trusted friend and writer look over a manuscript a while back. The comment she made was that my story, though filled with great action, humor, and well crafted characters, was a bit like tangled Christmas lights. (Gadz!) Once I posted my central story question beside my computer and kept one eye on it and the other eye on my manuscript as I edited, I was amazed at how quickly my word count shrunk and how my story gained focus. One of those Ah Ha moments I treasure like crazy.

What other questions do I ask while researching mentor texts?

2. What is the main character’s motivation for doing what they did or for reacting as they did? (no motivation = who cares)

3. Why something happens the way it does in the story. The Story arc. 

4. Are the main character’s failed attempts escalating to the point that my main character falls to his/her lowest point?

5.  Will the intended audience care? 

6. What do I think of the end? Why do I think the author chose to end the story that way? 

7. Is the ending satisfying? What were my feelings about the outcome of the problem? 

A. Was the ending predictable?

B. Was the ending inevitable?

C. Was the ending a plausible surprise/twist? 

D. Was I disappointed by the ending? 

Even if you don’t write picture books, mentor texts benefit writers.

Do you read mentor texts? Are there questions you ask while you’re studying those texts? I’d love to hear from you.

Websites For Writers-Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AToday for my Wednesday prompts and inspirations, I’d like to share four of my favorite, free, writer-helping websites.

The Wednesday before last, I mentioned onomatopoeia as a great writer’s tool. Onomatopoeia refers to the sounds people make when they laugh, drink, yell, as well as other human sounds. Onomatopoeia also covers the sounds of cars, any movement, liquid spilling, Halloween sounds, musical sounds, and so much more. Wouldn’t it be great if a website existed where you could do such a search?

Here you go! The onomatopoeia dictionary!

http://www.writtensound.com/index.php

 

If you are looking for a fun website where the questions of grammar are spelled out in short, friendly tips, you’ll want to check out Grammar Girl. Here, complex grammar questions become easy to understand through simple memory tricks.

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

 

If you need a little help writing a pitch, Kathy Carmichael takes the pain out of the process. Answer the questions on the form, click submit, and voila! As fast as the click of a button, you have your pitch.

http://www.kathycarmichael.com/generator.html

 

The right name for your character is crucial. With Behind the name, you won’t need to wonder about the meaning  behind the names you’ve chosen.

http://www.behindthename.com/

 

Care to share one or more of your favorite internet sites you turn to for help with your writing?

 

New Year’s Resolutions for Writers – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AThis time last year I made a list of New Year’s resolutions I was determined to keep. For a good stretch of the year I stayed focused, kept on top of the mental list I’d made, and drove forward with great stamina and persistence. Then, about four months later, I found I could sing the words to the same song countless other people were singing, too. You know…the one about how I got distracted by the daily to-do’s, got a mild case of writer’s block, had obligations outside my writing career that took center stage, and how I had a home repair project needing attention. Somewhere along the way, my resolutions faded away.

For this Wednesday’s Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations we’re going to write our resolutions and post them beside our computers. Better still, print several copies. Tape one beside your computer, another on your bathroom mirror, and keep the third in your wallet or purse.

Here are my 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

1. Get rid of writer’s block.

Writer’s block is unproductive and annoying. I’m not giving it a comfy seat ever again. An easy trick to say goodbye to writer’s block…write in a completely different genre than you’ve ever attempted.

2. Read more. 

To improve one’s writing it is imperative to read–a lot. Find books written in a similar vein to those you like to write. Twenty minutes a day isn’t much.  That comes out to two hours and twenty minutes a week or…a little over 121 hours a year! Twenty minutes of reading is easy to add at bedtime! Reading time could also fit in during a commercial break. Mute the TV and read. Wait! Why are you making time to watch TV when you could be writing? Imagine how empty our art museums would be if TV existed hundreds of years ago… Without TV, artists created. Creating was not only a form of entertainment for them, it was their life. Make it yours.

3. Keep pocket notebooks in more places.

Pocket notebooks are small, they fit in countless places: a purse, the glove compartment of your car, on a nightstand, by your computer, beside the telephone, on the coffee table, and in your coat pocket. Never leave to memory those great and often fleeting inspirations.

4. UFO’s.

Yes, you read that right, but UFO doesn’t stand for Unidentified Flying Objects. UFO stands for Unfinished Objects…in my case, unfinished novels and short stories. I get an idea for a new story, I dive into it, but those UFO’s keep nagging me. It’s easier to write with greater focus and enthusiasm when loose ends aren’t trailing you.

5. Daily appointment to write.

Yes! Appointment. We mark other appointments on our calendars: dentist, oil change, dinner with friends, school play to attend, fertilize lawn, etc… Writing is our life. Time for it should be scheduled daily.

6. Take an on-line class or make time to attend a seminar.

Sure we read every writing magazine we can get our hands on, frequent the writer section of our local bookstore, read other writer’s blog posts, but there is more to gain from an on-line writing class or seminar. We gain camaraderie with fellow writers. We receive another writer’s perspective and knowledge. We can have valuable conversations with a published writer/instructor. Through the on-line class or seminar we often gain access to a Facebook group where we can connect to other writers.

7. Submit.

Without this biggie, publication remains an unrealized dream. Go through your computer, read, re-read, edit, and polish everything nearly publishable you’ve written. Now make a list of potential publishers for each piece. Make it your goal to submit 4-5 times each month to magazines, contests, agents, and publishing houses.

What is on your New Year’s Resolution list for 2015? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

Leslie