This winter break has, once again, been a time of reflection and refocusing on my writing goals. I happened upon an excellent tweet thread by Jennifer Laughran:
The best advice if you want to write for kids is, GO TO THE LIBRARY AND READ 100 BOOKS PUBLISHED IN YOUR CATEGORY IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS. Put your favorites in a special pile and buy your own copies of those so you can write in them. Tear them apart. Why and HOW do they work? 1/5
— Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat) December 13, 2021
and have decided it is exactly the writing learning I need to do, in parallel with actually writing, to move me forward.
Since then, I’ve read over 200 picture books and almost 100 middle grade books, along with my adult reading. I’m recording details about them in a spreadsheet and typing out the text of some of my favourite picture books (so far, this comes to brilliant 5600 words) to help me see more clearly what makes the excellent ones so good.
I’ve learned so much already. I’ve been both en- and dis-couraging (so much good stuff out there! I want to create! I’m not good enough!). I’ve clarified the type of book I want to write (lyrical, tight, engaging, sometimes humorous). Comp titles have emerged through my intensive reading.
I’ve done some initial analysis on the books but as I finish the last few in this current library round, look forward to going back for deeper analysis.
All this reading also seems to have propelled my writing, as I’ve been waking up with new picture book ideas, and lots of writing energy.