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.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Introducing My New Website

Drum roll please...

After months of planning, designing, drawing, scanning, you get the picture, my new website is now live. It's been designed to support my two collections of Anansi stories (volume one Amazon UK - Amazon US and volume two Amazon UK - Amazon US).

It's aimed at parents, guardians, teachers and after school organisers who wish to share my Anansi stories during story time then enjoy activities based on the stories afterwards. At the moment it contains exclusive FREE to download colouring sheets, finger puppets and puppets based on the many animal characters. Over the next few months I plan to add word searches, cross word puzzles, information sheets, quizzes and craft makes etc. 

So please do visit, download and enjoy. If you know anyone who might be interested in some free activities for the kids please do share my website details.   

Lynne Garner

Monday, 1 July 2013

Plotting a Picture Book

It doesn’t matter if you're writing a 70,000-word novel or a 600-word picture book, creating an interesting story is simply a task of asking yourself some questions. Perhaps the most helpful source for what to ask yourself was penned by Rudyard Kipling (30th December 1865 – 18th January 1936),

“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”

The four lines above have helped me on many an occasion to solve plotting issues. So what follows is how I use the above to help me construct a story.

The who is obviously your main character or characters. Unlike adult fiction keep your character numbers small. So it is easier for a child to follow the story.


For a picture book writer there are two what’s to think about. Firstly what is your character? Are they animal, human, mythical create (fairy, wizard, witch etc.) or inanimate object. However many will tell you to keep away from these. Yet Disney still appears to create characters from cars, toys, gnomes etc. that children love. The second what is what happen or perhaps what is your theme? For example the theme for my story ‘A Book For Bramble’ is loneliness and missing a friend. 

Why is linked into the what, so you ask yourself what happens and why. For example in my book ‘The Best Jumper’ the what happens is my character Spindle the mouse has a jumper that appears to be shrinking however the why it is shrinking is because he is growing, something all children will be able to relate to.

In picture book this is perhaps one of the less important questions. Novels for any age tend to be anchored in a time period. However many picture books are timeless. That is to say when reading them they could be set in any time period. A book about fairies inhabiting a different world could be now or it could be 100 years ago, there is no real relation to ‘our’ time.

Many picture books are set within their own world as in my book ‘Dog Did It’ which is a mythical world populated by trolls or in a world that sits along side our own. For example in my book ‘A Book For Bramble’ the place it is taking place could be almost anywhere in the world where a mouse lives in a hole under a hedge. As the author I see Teasel and his family living in the English countryside however he would be just at home in many countries in Europe or even in some parts of the US.

This is quite a big question. However I normally use it to answer the question of how my character overcomes the problem I have given them to resolve. If you are a reader of picture books (something I would urge you to do as often as you can) you will notice the how to overcome the problem is not just used once but at least three times to give layers to your plotting.

I’m hoping you can now see how you can use these questions to help you plot your story and create one children will love and adult will be willing to read time and time again.   

I also write for: Electric AuthorsThe Hedgehog Shed and The Picture Book Den

I have three new distance learning courses commencing soon via Women On Writing:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Five Fab Tips for Picture Book Writing

If writing a picture book is something you'd like to try then take a look at the following tips which will hopefully help you on your way.
As you write try to think visually. Attempt to ensure every page can be illustrated with a different scene or picture. This will allow the illustrator to 'play' with your words and create a book that is visually pleasing as well as exciting to read.

Break your story down into sections and ensure you have a strong start, middle and end. If your character doesn't go on a journey (physical or emotional) why will the reader want to turn to the next page?

A picture book is a mixture of words and images. So you don't have to include great chunks of description. If it's important your character looks a certain way or they are carrying something then add notes for the illustrator. As the saying goes a picture can say a thousand words. So let the pictures tell half the story whilst your words tell the other half. 

Picture books are written to be read out aloud. So when it comes to editing do just this. Stand up and read your words out. Then edit as needed.

If you want to get your book published remember publishers want to sell worldwide. So you have to think globally. For example in my first picture book (A Book For Bramble) I'd mentioned Guy Fawkes Night. Now every child in the UK knows what this celebration is but children from other parts of the world will not. I therefore had to find an alternate celebration. So thinking globally will make your book more viable to a publisher.

I hope these tips have helped. Now find some paper and a pen and get writing!  

I have three new distance learning courses commencing in September via Women On Writing:

Friday, 24 May 2013

Using Your Observations To Improve Your Writing

A few months ago I decided to treat myself to a book. So I popped along to the local book shop. Yes a book shop, they do still exist. I scrutinised the shelves and finally chose Your Creative Writing Masterclass by Jurgen Wolff.

As I read I marked sections with small slips of paper. By the time I'd finished reading there were a large number of such pieces of paper - a sign of a good book. In chapter 24 - It's in the details the author posed two questions:

Have you appealed to a variety of senses, described not only what things look like but also how they sound, smell and taste?

Have you selected details beyond the obvious?

These two questions urged me into action. I decided to start writing an observation diary. Basically I decided to record something 'beyond the obvious' every day. Here are just a few of my observations:

A steep hill, covered in old gnarled trees. At the base of the hill is a newly ploughed field. Almost motionless in the air, on the boundary line of wood and field a bird of prey searches for a meal. So still it looks as though an artist has added it with a quick flick of his brush.     

Four small birds (LBJ's - little brown jobs) sitting in a tree. Two of them produce long warbling chirps the other two quickly follow with short sharp chirps. They repeat themselves and I'm reminded of some boy band singing a repetitive pop song.

Humans wrapped against the cold, heads down and hands firmly shoved in pockets. Whilst canine companions ignore the damp and the cold. They eagerly sniff fence, grass and base of tree searching for the messages left for them.  

Now I know the above isn't my best work. However if I'd not forced myself to notice and make a note these observations would have been lost. In the short time I've been writing my diary I've already had two new picture book story ideas. I also have a growing library of observations that hopefully one day I can use to add a little depth to my writing.

So if you're a writer I'd like to offer the above as a tip. Perhaps your own observations will allow you to include in your writing 'details beyond the obvious.'

Blatant plug for my distance writing courses that start 6th July 2013:

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Using Twitter to Improve Your Writing

There is an old saying that states, 'practice makes perfect.' I'm a great believer in this and feel it's also true with writing. But practice doesn't have to be boring. This practice time can be used to have fun with your writing and hopefully inspire a few new ideas.

So here is a challenge for you. Next time you have ten minutes free choose a fairy tale and become one of the characters. Create a series of tweets that tell that characters side of the story.

A tweet is a message using just 140 characters, including the spaces.

To demonstrate what I mean here is my retelling of 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff' from the point of view of the troll. If you've never read the story then follow this link:  

Woken this morning by a small goat trying to cross my bridge without paying a toll #angrytroll

This morning caught a second goat trying to sneak across my bridge without paying toll. Can't believe how rude goats can be. #angrytroll

Discovered a third goat attempting to cross bridge without paying toll. He even head butted me! #angrytroll

How do these goats expect me to stay in business? No toll, no bridge, no way to cross river to eat delicious grass! #angrytroll

Reluctant sale of bridge, been in family for generations. License to charge toll. High daily foot fall. #angrytroll #businessforsale  

Note: using a hash tag before a term allows other Twitter users to find your tweets by using the same term.

I'm hoping you can see how you can have fun with a well-known story, make it your own and practice your craft. This process may not lead to a published book but it does give you the opportunity to exercise your writing muscle in a fun and you never know a productive way.

So go on give it a go, it's fun!

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