Mining for Heart: Kristen Fulton’s Nugget

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. 

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 Vital idea, heartbeat, wow factor- the thread that weaves through your story by any other name is still just as important. For me, I call it the NUGGET.

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.


14 thoughts on “Mining for Heart: Kristen Fulton’s Nugget

  1. Excellent interview and advice. I know as a journalist I always thought about my “lead.” If I didn’t have the right “lead,” my story meandered. I had to have the right “nugget” or opening. It truly makes or breaks the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank goodness for your Nonfiction Archaeology class, Kristen. It was a life changing month that set me on the path of writing nonfiction picture books. I love your nugget approach to writing nonfiction and have implemented your method as best as I can. I’ll never be the researcher you are…or organize my work as perfectly as you do…but I’m LOVING bringing history alive for young children..and it is all thanks to you!
    Great post, Beth…thanks for doing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep my notebook from Kristen’s March 2017 Nonfiction Archeology class front and center on my desk. Now when I stall on a manuscript I go back to “true north”–my nugget–and it helps me discover where I have gone astray. Looking forward to this week of Rock-n-Roll.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kristen, I am so excited to join your WOW challenge. Mining from the Heart is sure to be yet another incredible learning journey. Your webinars are always filled with mountains of nonfiction tidbits! Thanks for keeping this event alive!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!! If I had a third leg I’d kick myself for not using Kristen’s postings on her blog as a continued writing resource. This is so on the money. I’ve got some reviewing to do with my ms. Thank you for leading us back to purposeful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So very important–not just knowing the nugget but staying focused on it! I can really relate, and I appreciate having someone else put words to a recent writing challenge.

    I’ve been writing, rewriting, hashing, rehashing, revising, re-revising, re-re-revising…a manuscript (with great difficulty).Only recently did I get my head out of the process enough to to reflect on what made two prior books work more fluidly for me. And I realized that with the others book I knew exactly what I wanted to do at the outset–knew my boundaries. With one for older kids (*A Black Hole is NOT a Hole*) as new material kept creeping in, I recognized it and hacked it away (like I do with wild grapevines in my back yard that keep threatening to overtake my intended fruit plants, the raspberries). Today I am yet again looking at the new ms–but had forgotten to begin with a determination on focus. Thank you, Kristen, for that vital reminder and your clarity.

    Liked by 1 person

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