Archive for June, 2009

Illustration Monday

I’m playing with a couple of picture book ideas at the moment. Today I’ve been breathing new life into an old one I’ve rediscovered – the idea was fun, but the delivery was awful. So it’s been completely rewritten, and now I’m experimenting with illustration styles and character design. This is really my favourite part, because once the characters have come alive on the page, the story and words change too. In fact, the text often halves once I know how the images will work. I’ve gone through a few different styles and versions of the characters, but these are my favourites (although still very rough). Its working title is ‘The Not-Duck’.

Duck:

2009-06-29a

Not-Duck:

2009-06-29b

2009-06-29c

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9, the movie

Tim Burton + Digital Animation + Post Apocalyptic Quest = Much Awesomness

Enough said.

ADD in Writing

Rabbit - runI’m not talking about Attention Deficit Disorder (wouldn’t that be a curse for writers, who have to spend many hours at their computers writing and editing?). No, I’m referring to the three narrative parts of any tale: Action, Dialogue and Description. During my mentorship, Kate highlighted the importance of being aware of these three forms of narration, and the way writer’s can use them to create a careful balance.

Often when editing, I’ll come across a long passage that isn’t quite working. When I can’t initially pinpoint why, I usually end up discovering it’s because my ADD balance is out:

  1. Action: when something is happening in the story. This could mean pirates are attacking a school bus, or simply a character is taking their dog for a walk. It can be high action or quiet action. Either way, the characters are DOING something
  2. Dialogue: when the characters are speaking (duh). Dialogue is a wonderful way of using each characters’ unique voice to show their personalities and reactions to others and events. Another reason dialogue is so valuable is because it introduces white space onto the page, breaking up the text and giving readers’ eyes a breather. I don’t tend to include internal dialogue in here because that gets absorbed into other paragraphs. I’d tend to include it in :-
  3. Description: any passage describing the scenery, characters’ appearance, internal thoughts or memories, characters’ reflections on things etc

When analysing a slow passage of my story, I might find I’ve used two pages of straight action and haven’t given the reader any description (ie. a chance to orient themselves). Or maybe the dialogue has gone on for too long and it’s become a bit confusing what is actually happening in the book (ie. the pace has slowed). Too much dense text without any dialogue can be a problem too – have you ever found, when reading, that a book can slow down with too many heavy paragraphs? I find myself flipping pages, scanning for any dialogue, and if it’s too far off I’ll put the book down for the night (there’s nothing worse than losing a reader). I also find it takes me longer to pick the book up again.

When you become conscious of these three narrative techniques, you can actively choose which to use at different points. You can pick the perfect one to heighten the drama or peak the emotional tension. You can create a balance that allows the reader to stay within the story, reeling them in at points and letting them breathe at others in order to absorb all the information.

I’ve certainly come across other ways of breaking down the different narrative structures – anyone got others to add?

Writing Rhythm

Rabbit - playLike any work, writing has a rhythm to it. It’s finding this rhythm, and becoming comfortable in it, which makes one able to do it each day. But the more I write, the more I discover that different projects have different rhythms, and that moving in and out of these can be tricky.

For example, when writing a picture book, my rhythm is a little choppy. The word count is so small, so the first draft may be written in a single sitting, but then the editing and rewriting and polishing may spread out over months. I can move in and out of working on a picture book several times throughout a day, with small bursts of time spent playing with words, and much more time spent thinking about it all. I frequently move between writing and sketching – when stuck in one area, I move to the other. Doing the final illustrations is different as it’s much more focussed: once it’s all planned out I often spend up to 10 hours a day working on them (it’s very absorbing).

On the other hand, my novel writing rhythm is more smooth. To write that first draft, I need to get in a rhythm where I’m working each morning, uninterrupted, writing an average of 1000-2000 words a day. I have to let the scene unroll in my head before writing it, and it’s easier to get into this rhythm if I do the writing at around the same time each day.  Editing (especially in the re-writing drafts) is similar, where I need dedicated time to do it every day, so the characters are in my head and the story is unfolding and I keep that regular rhythm rolling.

Moving between these rhythms is something I’m still learning about. After completing the mentorship novel I took a month out to work on a picture book, and so developed a much more choppy rhythm to my writing. Now I’ve returned to complete the second draft of a novel of mine, but I’ve lost my novel writing rhythm. I’m no longer used to sitting on the computer for long periods of writing. My mind is still flitting around as it does with picture books. I’m having to force myself to settle, and pin down the characters and make them play nice.

I know I’ll get there. I can feel the muscle memories flexing as I write, stretching them out.  My writing rhythm will settle once more, but it will take time. And patience. And baking (I made some scones yesterday – a sure sign of a bad day). But the sky is clear today.  I am 6000 words in, and already excited about what I may achieve tomorrow.

Agent Love

Rabbit - balloonConfession time. I know I said I’d post once I’d calmed down a bit from my agent news, but I haven’t come down much. Then again, I think that’s something worth celebrating, too. It seems to be common among writers to achieve a goal and then too soon start worrying about the next step along the path. I’ve been training myself to enjoy good news for longer (with the help of my ever patient fiance). It seems to be working – I’m still smiling.

Getting an agent is a goal many writer’s strive for, and yet this often obscures the importance of finding the RIGHT one for you. It’s potentially a life long relationship, and one of the most important ones in a writer’s career. There are so many different kinds of agents: some who edit and others who don’t, some who are mentors and others who are much more business like, and as many different styles and personality types in between. I knew what I wanted. Someone I connected with, who I felt comfortable discussing career goals with, someone who could offer editorial advice and who was passionate about writing and writers. Not asking for much, hey? But even knowing all that, how do you choose which agents to submit to?

Here’s how I made the decision to submit work to Sophie Hamley:

  1. Background: Like many agents, Sophie spent years working as an editor in the publishing industry, and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience
  2. Client List: This was a clear winner for me, because Sophie represents writers and illustrators I have admired for many years. People whose work I strongly connect with. It was also clear from her client list that she’s passionate about literature for young people
  3. Work Style: I was fortunate enough to know several of her clients, and have heard only wonderful things about how they work together
  4. Personality Match: This is the toughest I suppose, as it’s something you can almost only gauge after meeting a person. I was lucky enough to meet Sophie at a writer’s festival, which highlights the value of conference pitch sessions like those run at the Bundaberg WriteFest and Brisbane’s CYA. Her passion and enthusiasm blew me away, especially when she was talking about her clients, and from the moment we met I knew I’d enjoy working with her 

After all that, it was clear she was the agent for me, so I’m incredibly lucky that she decided to sign me! Now I’m suffering from a slight case of Agent Love.  Something I’m not sure I want the cure for.

Good News!

I’m absolutely ecstatic to report that just today I have signed with Sophie Hamley, super agent with the Cameron Creswell Agency! I began researching agents about a year or two ago now, and to this day Sophie has remained at the very top of my list of ideal agents, which makes today even more exciting for me. I received the official e-mail and contract paperwork last night, and I believe I reacted in the following order:

  1. Smiled, then laughed, then maybe there was some whooping
  2. Danced with my puppy, who had run into the office due to all the commotion I was making
  3. Called my fiance, Mum and Julie (my writing partner)
  4. Replied to Sophie’s e-mail using more exclamation marks than should be allowed, just before…
  5. Running out the door for an emergency celebratory coffee with Julie!

I might make a more intelligent post about this whole process once I have calmed down a little. I’m far too jittery and smiley to do that just yet. Care to dance with me?

2009-06-05

Illustration Wednesday

Many prefer illustrating in full colour.  And yet there’s something striking about the stripped back palette of black and white art. With their carefully balanced tonal qualities and the bold use of contrast, they hold an appeal which possibly has something to do with evoking memories of the past (like an old photograph).

That said, it’s a very different skill to working in colour, but it’s something I really enjoy. Working in black and white forces you to spend longer in the designing phase, focussing on contrast and laying out the elements. Although I always design an image by hand, I often construct it digitally, using Photoshop curves and channel mixers to adjust the tones of each component. I also use texture as an extra element – as a way of adding contrast – which, combined with positive and negative space, gives me a little more flexibility.

Below are some images I finished today. My goal was to illustrate three scenes that evoked entirely different moods.

2009-06-03

2009-06-03a

2009-06-03b


About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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