After a two-week hiatus, I’m back with April’s guest post from Kristen Fulton. When Kristen dove into writing for children several years ago, she dove deep and dove big! And the results are about to hit the market! Long May She Wave, her debut picture book, will be released on May 2. Many thanks to Kristen for sharing her process.
As a writer, we know that we can’t just write, but we must also read books in our genre. Have you read a book that you loved? How about one that you didn’t like? Could you sum up that entire book into one sentence, albeit a long one? Looking at that sentence, would it appeal to you? That sentence is the nugget of your story, and every scene in the book must be fueled by the nugget.
Let’s use my upcoming release Long May She Wave; the nugget is: A thirteen-year-old helps to sew the Star Spangled Banner then waits anxiously as the British bomb Baltimore to see if it makes it through the night, and America remains a free and independent Country.
The opening scenes are about the thirteen-year-old girl, Caroline and establishing that she is sewing a flag and that she is part of a family of flag makers. The next scenes are about the war of 1812 and the British moving closer to Baltimore. The next few scenes are about Caroline’s flag being raised at the American military fort, and then the fighting ensues. The last scene answers the nugget did the flag still wave or did it switch to a British flag?
Did you notice how every scene fed off of the nugget? I didn’t go in and tell you, by the way, the British had just burned down the White House, and Dolly Madison ran back in to save the portrait of George Washington- interesting but nothing to do with my story. I didn’t mention that Betsy Ross is frequently mistaken as making the flag— this isn’t Betsy’s story. I STAYED FOCUSED.
That is how I write: when I find a story that I want to write, the very first thing that I do before the first words start to form a manuscript is to shape my nugget. If I haven’t found my nugget, I don’t write. I may keep bullet points of information that I think might be interesting to include in the story but the truth is, I keep thinking and plotting, and trying to find that nugget.
When I finally get it, I write my nugget at the top of my page and start my story.
If you visit my website, www.kristenfulton.com and click on Explore Nonfiction, you will see that I break down picture books by nugget. If the nugget isn’t solid and appealing, the story won’t be either. Many times the nugget is promised to us in a publisher summary and then fails to deliver. We as a reader are left feeling unsatisfied. Agents and editors have that same emotion when they are promised something in the pitch. Keep your nugget front and center, check your scenes and ask yourself, does this have anything to do with my nugget? Yes? Leave it in. No? Then take it out.
Whether you try my way, or someone else’s- keep your story focused and deliver on what you promise, and I will be in line waiting for your autograph.
For more about Kristen, her upcoming books, and her writing classes, visit her website HERE.