PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

YOUNG ADULT

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JOIN US IN EXPLORING OTHERS' CRAFT AND BUILDING OUR OWN

As writers, we can look to our settings to provide a wealth of tools to not only add depth to the story but to underline the experiences of the characters, their feelings, their motivations, their desires.

The authors and contributors we interviewed had so many wonderful sidewriting challenges, we thought we’d put them all in one place. Each exercise will have a link back to the original post so you can learn more about the author and how sidewriting works for them. Enjoy!

Evan Griffith: There’s usually a long period of exploratory writing after I get an idea and before I begin drafting. I’ll write random scenes, character studies, letters from my character to me, and so on, all to get a feel for the mood, tone, and style of the story. If the story takes shape through these exercises—and, crucially, if it holds my interest—then I feel more confident going into the drafting process.

When I don’t know the WHY behind a scene or a character, there is nothing more helpful than stepping away from the manuscript. When I am writing away from my story, I am free to explore my characters, setting, plot, theme…well everything. And since it doesn’t “count,” it also doesn’t have to be good—that is the permission slip I need.

Remember—the world supports the story and everything inside of it. A well-developed world feels real and accessible.

DiCamillo manages to build Louisiana’s emotionally complex and rich world through the use of details that serve a dual purpose: they illuminate as well as foreshadow.

In a world where adults are constantly telling children what to do, which vegetables to eat, when to go to bed, and sometimes, what to think and feel, the idea of a secret space can be magical and captivating.

craft review by Lindsay Lackey It’s no surprise that a two-time Newbery medalist is a master of her craft. Kate DiCamillo’s books are international bestsellers and have garnered numerous awards. She’s known for writing complex and compelling characters, rich Southern settings, and crisp, clear prose—all of which are on display in her 2018 middle grade […]

craft review by Kate O’Shaughnessy In my childhood bedroom, there was an air-conditioning vent in the far corner of the room. One day I noticed it was loose, so I pried it off. To my great delight, I discovered there was a little nook in there, a perfect hiding spot for small, treasured things. After […]

craft review by Anne-Marie Strohman Last week, we examined a few of the ways Lauren Wolk establishes the setting of Wolf Hollow without using straight descriptive paragraphs. (Read Part 1 here.) Today the discussion continues by looking at how she creates the spatial relationships among the various settings in the novel.   Using Repetition to Establish […]