Monday, 9 June 2014

How Teaching Is Helping My Writing

The few days ago I was talking to a friend who has just started a new job, which she's loving. She'd come to the conclusion that in her previous job she reached a dead end, hence the move. Once we'd talked about her new job she asked me how my writing was going. "I just don't have time," was my reply.

She was surprised and asked me why. So I explained that at the moment I'm teaching so many writing courses that I only  have time to scribble ideas in my note books. She then asked if I felt my old 'job' of writing had reached a dead end. After thinking for a moment I realised that teaching is an extension to my writing. I love to teach new writers the tricks I use and they often teach me a few new tricks. I also realised that although I'm not writing the teaching provides me with the opportunity to bounce ideas off of people I would never normally come into contact with. So my teaching is laying down the fuel for the writing I will do during the periods I don't teach, namely the holidays.

So rather than my writing reaching a dead end I feel a little time away from it is giving me the chance to build on my library of ideas, which I can then use to fuel my writing when I return to it.

So my advice is if you feel you've reached a dead end with your writing take time away from it and refresh your writing battery. It's working for me.



P.S. If you want to hone your writing skills check out my on-line writing courses (and the others) run by Women On Writing:
How To Write A Children's Picture Book And Get Published
Five Picture Books In Five Weeks
How To Write A Hobby-Based How To Book


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Turning a book character into a toy

I was recently handed a sheet of paper and told by him-in-doors "this is for you to fill out." When I looked down I saw the words 'bucket list.' So over the last couple of weeks I've been adding things as they've occurred to me. Now I've always wanted to have one of my book characters turned into a toy. Knowing this was unlikely to happen with my traditionally published picture books I decided I'd do it myself. So I looked at the picture books that have been published as an eBook or an app. As soon as I saw the rabbit that appears in 'Clever Rabbit' and 'The Best Rabbit' I knew I may just be able to make him work.
A page from 'The Best Rabbit'
So I grabbed my crochet hook, some orange, yellow and red yarn and got crocheting. I'll admit I've surprised myself as I've never turned an image into a 3-D object. I'm now hooked - sorry for the pun. I'm now looking at my other characters to see if I can repeat the process. I'm going to allow my brain to cogitate on it and hopefully that brain cell will work out what I need to do. I"m thinking Captain from Captain and Nugget (eBook - app for iPhone/iPad ) at the moment - I know I have just the right colour wall in my stash.  
My crocheted version of Rabbit  
If you'd like to have a go a creating your own Rabbit then a free crochet pattern can be found here.



Friday, 28 February 2014

Wearing Two Hats at The Same Time

lynne garner author visit
I was recently contacted by a teacher who had set hedgehogs as the theme for a class project. She asked if I could visit the children and talk to them about hedgehogs and the volunteer work I do rescuing them.  I suggested as part of my visit I also put my author hat on and read my picture book 'A Book For Bramble.'

As I spoke to the children I was amazed at the number of facts they already knew. These included:
  • They are nocturnal
  • Their main defence is to roll into a ball
  • They eat slugs, snails, caterpillars, bugs etc. but you can also feed them hedgehog food or cat/dog food
  • It's good to leave water out for them during hot weather 
  • There are different types of hedgehogs
  • Hedgehogs are quite good swimmers
  • A hedgehog can run up to 4 miles per hour (although I know they are fast, as I've had to chase escapees, I didn't know it was that fast)
Although I enjoyed the visit what arrived in the post really made the visit special, an envelope containing hedgehog themed thank you cards. These cards will go onto the hedgehog shed wall but before this happens I wanted to share them.

The hedgehog themed thank you cards kindly sent to me after my school visit
Hedgehogs galore!

More hedgehogs plus a little mouse called Teasel
I hope you've enjoyed seeing these images. 

Note to teachers:

If you're a teacher about to cover the theme of hedgehogs and would like me to visit please click on the 'support us' button for more details.


Sadly many hedgehogs may have died in the floods this year, so those that have survived will need our help more than ever. So if you have a hedgehog who visits your garden then you may wish to supply it with a new home or perhaps leave some food out. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Seven Tips For Improving the SEO of Your Blog

Just so I can tick I've followed tip four
Just so I can tick I've followed tip four
Those of us who blog do so for different reasons. Some just for the pleasure of it, some to increase our exposure, some to build our USP and others like myself for all of the above. Now over the last couple of months my partner and I have started a little sideline (building websites that sell product). Part of our marketing strategy is to blog about the subject and sometimes the product we're selling. As I'm the writer the blogging has fallen firmly in my lap. This has meant a steep learning curve because for the first time this SEO stuff if quite important.

Now whilst I was trying to decide what to blog about this month I decided what I've learned might be of interest to fellow self-published authors. So here's what I've discovered.

Tip one: sub-headings

You should try and include sub-headings in your blog post. These are included by clicking on the box labelled 'normal' and choosing sub-heading. In Wordpress it's 'Heading 2.' I don't 100% understand the logic but apparently it's something to do with how the Internet and how SEO works. Also it helps the reader following your text, as people like small chunks.

Tip two: word count

Word count should be more than 300. This apparently is the ideal length for the modern reader and gives those algorithms looking for good content something to work with.

Tip three: external links

Where ever possible you should try to include some external links. So as I'm trying to follow my own tips I've added some of these at the bottom of this post - they are a blatant plug for my new venture but at least at the bottom you can just ignore.

Tip four: images

Include an image or two and make sure they have captions plus ensure you also fill in the alt tag. This is done by clicking on the image and choosing 'properties.' Then fill in the alt tag space with some relevant text.

Tip five: focus word

Pick a focus word and use it in your title (near to the beginning of the title if you can) and a few times in your post. Do try not to use it just for the sake of it. In Wordpress you can set this in the SEO section at the bottom of the page.

Tip six: title

The title length in search engines is limited to 70 characters so try to keep under 70. Also try to pick a title that will catch peoples interest. For example top tips, how to, discover the secret etc. etc. 

Tip seven: labels or tags 

People place terms and words into their chosen search engine to find information related to the subject they are interested in. So pick appropriate tags or labels for your blog post and ensure you include these in the relevant box. 
I hope this has been of some help to those who blog and want to make their blog posts more SEO friendly.



Now as I needed to include some external links (tip three) here are a few:

Wildlife Welcome - For those who want to encourage wildlife into their garden
The Craft Ark - aimed at the home crafter
I Collect Bags - stocked full of bags, bags, bags
Ready Aim Click - contains cameras and accessories.          

Monday, 6 January 2014

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

A friend recently posted a cute animal photo on my Facebook page. As soon as I saw it I just knew I had to use it as a basis for a picture book story. So I grabbed a sheet of A4 paper and divided into 12 sections (I tend to write the traditional 12 double page spreads). I started to plot my story, which started well. However when I reached the last page I stalled. I had the image in my minds eye, I knew what action was taking place but I just couldn't put it into words. I decided to put the story to one side and allow my subconscious solve the issue for me. However a week or so went by and I was still stuck. Suddenly it hit me. The page didn't need words, the picture could show the reader what I wanted them to know.

I'm not the only author to let the picture tell the story. In the hands of the right illustrator the story can be told successfully without a single word on the page. For example in one of my favourite pictures books The Big Bad Mole's Coming! written by Martin Waddell and illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello there are two pages that contain no words (part of one page below). The action needs no words, I can tell exactly how the animals are feeling from their body language.

Another book that uses this device is Knight Time written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Jane Massey. The page is a fold out page which opens to reveal a second page with text. Jane informs me the idea was that as the reader turned the page they would feel they were entering the forest where Little Knight and Little Dragon are lost. As you can see from the page below you don't need words to feel the tingle run up your spine and to start to worry about the main characters.

So to all those picture book writers out there. If you're working on a new picture book story and stall ask yourself "can a picture paint the words I need?" If the answer is yes then don't be afraid to allow the illustrations to tell the story for you.

Lynne Garner

I have the following online classes with WOW starting in March 2014:

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Writing and Publishing Seasonal Picture eBooks and Apps

A few of years ago I wrote two picture book stories 'Where It's Always Winter' and 'The Perfect Christmas Tree.' As the titles suggest they both have a festive or seasonal link. Once I'd completed them I sent to various publishers who I believed (because I'd researched their previously published titles) might be interested in them. Again and again they were rejected, which is something you sort of get used to as a professional writer. However a couple of the publishers didn't send me the standard rejection letter. They told me they'd enjoyed the stories but were withdrawing from seasonal books so weren't in a position to take.

This is where my journey into becoming a publisher started. MadMoment Media Ltd was set up and with a very limited budget we had these two picture stories (plus a few others I'd received good feedback on) into apps for the iPhone and iPad. This meant a steep learning curve and a fair few hours spent in a recording studio, as yours truly narrated them.  By the end of 2010 they were ready and uploaded onto the iTunes store. A few months later we converted all of the stories into picture eBooks and uploaded onto Amazon (Amazon UKAmazon US). Our non-seasonal stories sell a few copies all year round. However although 'Where It's Always Winter' and 'The Perfect Christmas Tree' are seasonal we sell as many if not more of them than our non-seasonal titles.

Now you may be wondering why I'm sharing this with you. Well I wanted to demonstrate that just because a large publishing house doesn't see the point of selling seasonal picture books it doesn't mean there isn't a market for them. So if you have a book that's received good feedback but isn't marketable all year round why not give it a go yourself. It's worked for me it could work for you.

Lynne Garner 

I also write for:
The Picture Book Den - all things picture book
Authors Electric - covers digital self-publishing
Awfully Big Blogging Adventure - subjects connected with writing
The Hedgehog Shed - concerned with hedgehog rescue
The Craft Ark - craft how-to blog

My online classes with WOW starting January 2014:

Saturday, 5 October 2013

How To Pace A Picture Book

It doesn’t matter if you're writing a 70,000-word novel or a 600-word picture book you have to create a story with a good plot and that's well paced. Unlike a novel when writing a picture book you know how many pages you are working with as there are industry standards.The picture books I write normally adhere to the traditional 12 double-page spread formula. So when I start to work on a new story I take a piece of A4 paper and fold it to create 12 sections. To show you how I use this piece of paper to pace a story I'll describe how I wrote Captain and Nugget.

I knew the story was going to be about two dogs, Captain and Nugget. I had decided the theme was going to be about learning to share and I knew how this lesson was going to be learnt. So all I had to do was pace the scenes on my piece of paper.

On the first page I introduced one of the characters, being Captain. The next page I used to introduce both the second character, Nugget and the problem, Captain learning to share. I then skipped to the last page because I knew I wanted a happy ending with Captain realising that sharing has its benefits.

So by plotting the first two pages and the last I was left with nine. Having nine pages meant I was able to use the magic number three. Basically for an interesting story you can't have your character solve the problem on the first attempt, this would be boring. You shouldn't allow them solve the problem on the second go, you've not built up enough tension. Having them continue to fail would frustrate the reader so you need them succeed on the third. So I was able to split the nine pages into three sets of three, which allowed me to evenly pace the story.

I've used this method of pacing in many of my books and I'm sure I'll continue to use it, as it appears to work for me. In fact just this afternoon I grabbed my A4 note pad, created 12 sections and started to plot and pace out a new story.

When I'd finished this story I used it as part of an illustration course I was studying and at that time I also decided to turn it into an eBook ( - As I no longer had to stick to the rigid 12 double-page spreads I increased the pages to 23 and was still able to create a story I felt was well paced.