Well, as you can tell by looking at the date of the last post, it has been another long span of time since I've updated my blog. And that is NOT because I've been slacking off! On the contrary, I've been harder at work in my "author life" than I've ever been.
I purchased a Cintiq drawing tablet a while ago and have now completely drawn the draft pictures for my next children's book "The No-Nap Book". It is ready to present to an editor/publisher. (I've actually already submitted it once but that publisher didn't say "Yes". No worries, someone will!)
And I've added a new software program [Dramatica] to my writing arsenal of story-crafting tools. I have spent gobs of hours working on my W.I.P. (Work-In-Progress) "The World BEYOND The Toy Box". I am what is called in the writing world, "A Plotter". I have intricately plotted my story from beginning to end BEFORE I begin to write it. And, let me tell you, that takes time. A lot of it. An incredible amount of it! But I think every single second is worth it. I'm actually a little sad that the plotting stage of my story is almost over because I enjoy it THAT much.
I cannot even completely express how thrilled I am with the new chapter book W.I.P. I am now even dreaming about story structure! I think that readers will truly enjoy this book. I hope that you will be looking forward to reading it.
Well, I know this was short. But I received notice that my website developer [Weebly] was purchased by Square and I needed to do some updating and change-overs. So that is what brought me here today! Now I will be spending the bulk of today (as I do every chance I get) working on "The World BEYOND The
Toy Box". My main character, Nico, is a ten-year-old bullied child experiencing a hope-crushing series of events. This eventually propels Nico into an amazing adventure in a miniature world filled with a community of extraordinary and unexpectedly-familiar characters. There Nico has to battle a menacing adversary who forces him to rise to the challenge and overcome the obstacles which are perpetually haunting him in his life-size world.
Doesn't that sound compelling enough to read? ;)
Well, back to the plotting! I will be back here again at the next stage of the project. Till then!
This post is dedicated to a dear friend, Christy Adler, who helped me design this website in 2012 and recently encouraged me to describe for you here on the website my day-to-day writing and illustration processes. So I hope you will enjoy this little peek inside my cluttered home office where it all happens!
But I have to start by explaining some of the fundamentals of this journey.
2020 has been a busy year for me! Even as our world has been turned topsy-turvy, I found my own private author/illustrator universe flipped over (or, at the very least, rearranged). Early in the year I decided (after serious deliberation with my wife, Marilyn, and a few trusted friends) to temporarily put aside my children's chapter book adventure series and return to finally finish my many-years-delayed picture book work-in-progress, "The NO-NAP Book". And so, that is what I did.
"The NO-NAP Book" is a picture book that I am writing and illustrating. (I only emphasize that because it is - to my knowledge - not that common in the children's picture book market for the author also to be the illustrator.) "The NO-NAP Book" is about a little child who hates naps. As the story progresses, he gives an increasingly animated and exaggerated explanation for why he doesn't like them and doesn't want to take one.
Shortly after I had decided to return to focusing on "The NO-NAP Book", I began taking illustration classes. I quickly realized that those classes were significantly impacting me in an unexpected way. The art instructors at The Society for Visual Storytellers had been primarily using digital means to teach illustrating. And, before I realizes it, I was hooked! In May of 2020, I decided to purchase a Wacom drawing tablet and I chose Clip Studio Paint as my illustration software. Since then, all my NO-NAP illustrations have been produced digitally.
This was by no means an easy transition. I am not a "techy" person. So the learning curve to switch from traditionally-produced to digital illustrations was STEEP (to say the least!). And I am by no means an accomplished digital illustrator ... yet. But I am improving. Soon I will post here some samples of what I am creating.
So, since May, I have been dedicating every available moment to "The NO-NAP Book". This process has included the laying out of the entire book, including covers, publisher's information, title pages, and text placement. During that development I did many re-writes and edits. I took dozens of classes on children's book illustrating. I watched hours and hours of videos about the rules of successful illustrating (and there is an infinite number of them!). I learned about dark and light values and various color theories. I studied the most important illustration structures. I've gained insight into the importance of proper light and shadow utilization. I have tried to apply to my drawings everything I've learned! Whew!
Poor Marilyn! She has become my necessary critic. I can't blame her when her eyes glaze over when I bring ANOTHER update to her for her sharp-eyed opinion.
I am planning on bringing this book to a publisher as soon as possible. I don't even know what that means!!
When my friend, Christy, recently suggested that I include on this site some of the processes I have been utilizing in my writing journey, I think she was mostly interested in my children's chapter book adventure series. So, here's a little about that.
For at least the past three years I have been studying story structure. I have written extensively about that instruction in earlier posts. It continues! My favorite writing craft authors are K.M. Weiland (helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com), C.S. Lakin (livewritethrive.com), and Kristen Kieffer (well-storied.com). My home office is stacked with three-ring binders full of notes from these three (and others).
Even though my primary focus over the past year has been on "The NO-NAP Book", I NEVER stop thinking about my children's chapter book adventure series. So the Notepad on my phone is littered with thoughts and ideas about those four stories. I often carry with me a tiny pocket-sized notebook (given to me many years ago by a teacher friend named Diane Ferron) in which I scribble things for the stories - whenever the inspiration hits me. I write book-related tidbits on napkins, envelopes, scraps of paper, and in a couple of new and re-purposed spiral notebooks.
Yesterday I spent multiple hours back on the children's chapter book adventure series. I am writing four separate stories as a series even though each story in the series is stand-alone. Each has its own protagonist, antagonist, plot and theme. The setting and the time period of the four stories are unifying features and there are a number of connecting surprises planned. Some characters from one story appear in the other three books in ways that tie the series together.
The working titles for the four books are (in order of there appearance in the series): The World BEYOND The Toy Box, The World BENEATH The Blanket, The World BETWEEN Now and Not Yet, and The World BEHIND The Closed Door. I am finding inspiration for these stories from older books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wizard of Oz, newer material like Pixar and Disney movies, and a plethora of other children's media. Being a grandparent who babysits has availed me to all of the new children's movies, books, and TV shows. I hope that my stories will join the pantheon of my grandchildren's favorites!
Stories are made up of many elements. Keeping each element in mind while writing is a challenge. I have decide to write the four books simultaneously. I hope it will help make them more cohesive as a series.
I sit at my writing desk (I have a separate desk for my drawing tablet and tethered computer) surrounded by my cluttered bookshelves full of story-craft binders. Everything is within arm's reach. I love being snuggled into this close proximity to my resources. I write my notes in pencil. (I erase a lot!) I start with concepts, theories, and outlines. I answer plot questions. I rely on story advice from the experts which I turn to constantly.
I use my computer as a research and inspiration tool. I play a lot of different music through Spotify or the Window's Media Player. (Right now I am listening to Switchfoot's "The Best Yet". Sometimes I listen to rain and thunder soundtracks.) I use an app named Scrivener to compile all my research and to write my stories. I am using an outlining system named Fool Proof Outline which is AMAZING! My phone is my thesaurus and dictionary. I spend thousands of hours preparing my mind for minutes of final production. But it is worth every second.
Okay, I'm ready to slip over to my writing desk. I want to thank the patient followers who check in on this site though it has been quite thin with new posts for way too long. I hope that I can change that. Be looking for "The NO-NAP Book" sometime in the next year or so (It depends on when a publisher picks it up!).
In the meantime, stay healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Merry Christmas. I pray that you find deep and abiding comfort in the reason for the season.
It has been months since I posted anything here. 'Bout time to set that straight!
I am working every available moment (in contrast with every unavailable moment) on my children's fantasy adventure book "The World BEYOND The Toy Box". It is taking on a thrilling life of its own as I am discovering so many new things about the plot, the characters, and the overarching theme of this story. I can't wait to share it with you all! But the time to do so might be a little farther off than I first thought. This writing experience is tough!
Because I am a grandparent who has had many opportunities recently to watch children's movies with my grandchildren, I have learned so much about what separates the good flicks from the bad ones. My favorites lately are Sing, Moanna, A Bug's Life, The Secret Life of Pets, Little Foot, Toy Story 1,2&3. (I can't wait to see Toy Story 4!), and How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World. I know some of these are older movies but they are classics!! The characters in these movies are tremendously diverse in creative ways and are extremely mesmerizing to me. Watch any of them again and I dare you not to smile in amazement!!
So say a little prayer for me that I will continue to be productive and that my story will rise to the level that I believe it can. If it does, I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
My book is underway! (Hurray! ...Even if I have to say so, myself!) I have actually begun to write it.
In the past two-plus years, I have accumulated almost 30 three-ring binders (some even 1 1/2" thick!) chock-full of story structure elements. And it has been quite a ride. It might even have the appearance to some people of overkill. But in my defense, as Jonathan Baldie, author of the new book The 24 Laws of Storytelling, recently wrote in an article titled Why a Lack of Planning is Killing Your Story:
"To the storyteller, story structure is really about spending time before you’ve even written the ﬁrst page, on a clear route map for everything that your story’s going to cover. Successful authors spend more time plotting out character arcs, designing each arc, and purposefully tracking the rising tension in their stories, than they do on the actual writing of words."
And that's what I've been doing. Preparing.
As I noted in my last post, for the past month or two I've been spending time reading and listening to audiobooks. I'm doing so in an attempt to improve my writing ability so that I can be the best storyteller I am capable of being. And it has been rewarding.
For example, I have listened to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman three times in the last month. Yes, three times. If you haven't read (or listened to) this book before, you MUST! Unbelievable. That's what I'm talking about.
I've also responded to a challenge called "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Baldie. And that challenge is to focus like a laser in 2019 on the things (relationships are already a given) for which I most want to be remembered if I were to unexpectedly die at the end of this year. I know it sounds morbid at first. But true-life proves it is always possible. At the top of my current list of things I want to accomplish in 2019, is the completion of the first book in my children's fantasy-adventure series. And so I write.
Be looking for a completed book by 2020. Memento Mori.
The Time To Write Has Finally Arrived!
Since April, a lot has transpired. Mostly boring life stuff. Some not so much. I was hospitalized a little over six months ago with a life-threatening collection of blood clots in my lungs. Doctors found no explanation for their appearance. But it did give ME a reason to find an explanation for what I am doing with my life! I want to make it count and become a World Changer (a dream of mine for many, many years). I find my writing to be one of the most personally compelling task-related things I am currently doing. It is my hope and prayer that one day this adventure series which I am currently developing will become a special part of many children's lives.
I have finished two complicated years of writing preparation. When I began, I knew less than nothing about the craft of writing. Now I know a little more than that!! I owe a deep sense of gratitude to my editor, CS Lakin who has helped me streamline my outline and feel more than ready to roll. And I want to explicitly recognize Christopher Downing, author of the extraordinary writing craft book Fool Proof Outline, who has helped me create the most amazing structure on which to build my stories.
My daughter has recommended, now that I have completed phase-one of my preparation, that I read The Wingfeather Saga before I actually start writing. So I will do that first. But I am monstrously hungry to start writing. I know it is wise to have a firm hold on the genre of literature to which one is aspiring to join. So wisdom will prevail!!
The four topics that I will be focusing on in my books will be Courage, Significance, Adventure, and Incentive. I hope you will be waiting anxiously for each story!
I'm ALMOST there! (Believe it or not!)
I have been working feverishly for the last couple of months on trying to get my outline to my editor, C.S. Lakin. I sent her a few pages of my outline at her suggestion recently. And I'm so glad that I did! Because she gave me some excellent advice ... and I took it. It forced me back to the drawing board (so too speak) and enabled me to more precisely nail my outline. Susanne (Lakin) is an excellent tutor and has been so helpful to me personally. Before I have even paid her one penny, she has been gently guiding me along the path to a properly structured story.
All that to say that I am moving forward on this book project. I cannot wait to share it with you! My story addresses courage, hope, and determination. I summarize my project like this: "It is a children's fantasy adventure story (filled with mesmerizing characters) about a bullied individual (a tiny firefly) living in the midst of catastrophic circumstances battling immeasurable odds for a virtuous reason." The book's working title is "The World BEYOND The Toy Box". I hope that is a book you would want to read to the children in your life!
Well, back to my other life. This weekend my wife and I are babysitting grandparents. Life is good!
I'm still at it! Still working on book number one.
I am in the pre-outline phase of my first book, The World BEYOND The Toy Box (working title). That means I am creating a synopsis of the book highlighting all the critical "high moments" of the story so that I can create an outline that aims for those "mountain peaks". And let me tell you something: it ain't as easy as it sounds!
KM Weiland, one of my favorite story structure gurus, has a section on her website, helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com, that consists of a data base of hundreds of books and movies, all broken down into these "mountain peak" moments. I have relied on her expertise to try to craft my own "high moments" by following her examples. I specifically focused on three movies, Wreck-it Ralph, Zootopia, and Jungle Book, because they are somewhat similar in story plot to my book. But finding these "high moments" is harder than it looks. That's why so many movies are so forgettable. They haven't mastered the art of crafting "high moments". I hope I can!
Also, as I've journey forward this past month, I've discovered another amazing author with an incredible website. Her name is Kristen Kieffer and her website is well-storied.com. The magnitude of material on her site is mind-blowing! I have gobbled up so much delicious information off her website that I'm afraid I might rightly be accused of gluttony!
I've contacted Kristen about my writing journey and have found her to be an amazing kindred spirit. She has already been very helpful to me. Please check out her website!
I'll check in again soon. Back to the book!!
A Long-Overdue Update!
Just in case you think that I've been ignoring my website (maybe!) and sitting around and doing nothing (never!), I thought I'd pop over here to my Weebly website and slip in a quick update.
For most of the past two years I have been working feverishly on learning the nuanced elements of story structure. I have accumulated nearly twenty three-ring binders full of notes and print-outs detailing numerous aspect of the story-writing process. My Kindle is full of writing craft books including ones by K.M. Weiland (my favorite story structure instructor and author of phenomenal books like "The Secrets of Story Structure" and "Creating Character Arcs"), C.S. Lakin (an incredible story structure mentor who has written excellent books such as "The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction" and "The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing" and who is the professional editor I have chosen to help me do this correctly), John Truby ("The Anatomy of Story"), Christopher Downing ("Fool Proof Outline"), Jordan Smith ("Finding the Core of Your Story"), and Jeff Goins ("You Are a Writer") - among others. I have listened to multiplied hours of story-structure podcasts (mostly K.M.'s "Helping Writers Become Authors") and YouTube tutorials by editors and authors such as Ellen Brock and Vivien Reis. I've gobbled up a number of Michael Hague's story structure nuggets. I've studied (and devoured!) Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey," Syd Field's "Screenplay," and Blake Snyder's "Save The Cat." I've watched TED lectures by representatives from Disney and Pixar. I've dissected at least three times - while taking copious notes - all ten 0f Bloop Animation's "Pixar's Storytelling Rules" (A must see!!). I've listened to a challenging writing lecture by Stephen King and I've heard interviews of countless other authors on The Creative Penn podcasts. I've marveled at the genius of J.K. Rowling. I've revisited my childhood favorite "The Wizard of Oz" and dusted off my "Chronicles of Narnia" book series (for writing/research purposes) and looked with renewed awe at my 3-book set of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. (I also have "The Hobbit.") I could go on.
Needless to say, I've not been resting on my laurels!
But "What about your own book series?" you may ask. Well, that's what I want to tell you about! An exercise in K.M.'s "Outlining Your Novel Workbook" (which I am enjoying using) asked me to answer this question: "Why would you love reading this story?" It is a prompt helping me to set a target description for my story that I would gladly devote the next couple of years trying to achieve.
Here's what I answered:
This book is an exciting journey into an imaginary miniature world seldom experienced by readers. It is full of incredibly-relatable insects, reptiles, and small meadow creatures. They live in close (but mostly invisible) proximity to their human counterparts and struggle with similar problems. The hero of the story, Mico - a bullied but incredibly determined lightning bug, faces problems with which we can all identify. And to top it off, the fate of the entire world rests on his tiny shoulders! So, we find ourselves enthusiastically cheering on Mico - for our own posterity's sake!
I've asked God for wisdom and guidance and I have dedicated this entire project to Him. I hope that I don't embarrass Him!
I hope this little teaser whets your appetite for my book. It is the first one in a four-part children's adventure series. (I am working on the following three books simultaneously with the interconnected story of this first one.) Please check back in a little while and see how I'm doing with it. And any words of encouragement or interest would be greatly appreciated and incredibly motivating. Just sayin'!!
Till next time!
This is what Dr. Jean LeBlanc, principal of Nelson School in Niles, Illinois had to say about my recent series of assemblies at her school:
"Ed Denecke captured and held the attention of students in grades K-6 by sharing his Dreaming Giant-sized Dreams theme through his story of getting his book published. Emphasizing traits such as tenacity, asking for help, using feedback to improve his work and more, Ed showed how these traits served him well in fulfilling his dream of publishing his own book."
If you have any connection to an elementary school - whether through your own children or through some other means (friendship, business, or mere proximity) - please consider passing on my name to the administration. I promise you that I won't embarrass you by bringing a sub-par presentation!
I am in the midst of more than a year-long research-and-preparation-project for my first chapter book (part of a four-part adventure series). I have another picture book that has already been presented to my publisher. It was enthusiastically received! Hopefully, soon it will be underway! Because I am a new, unknown author being given a chance by a smaller publisher, the process that I am using to get published requires me to invest in a percentage of the cost of producing my books (My first book "What Happens at School When You're Not There?". easily made back my entire investment!). Now I would like to get my second picture book, "The Nap Book", in print. If it is successful, as I believe it will be, then I will re-invest the profits into my adventure book series. Any help that you can give me in making contact with elementary schools (my target audience) will be greatly appreciated. I can send inquisitive school administrators plenty of pertinent information to help them decide if I am a good fit for their 2017-2018 school year author visit.
Edward J. Denecke is an aspiring children's book author.