Talking heads. Why you should shut them up, pronto

‘Narnia! It’s all in the wardrobe just like I told you!’ Dialogue. Lordy lord, it can bring writers undone. Basically, dialogue needs to lively and straight to the point. Cut any excess. Say what needs to be said, then keep moving. Especially in kid lit. Your characters should be speaking within some kind of engaging…

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Get your characters moving! Here’s how.

  If your story’s a bit flat, if things aren’t moving, have a think about your characters. What’s driving them? In particular, think about your main character. Your protagonist. Is your protagonist wobbling along on a rusty pushbike, veering all over the track, in danger of falling off at any moment? Is she wandering through the story…

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How to fix the start of your story

It was a dark and stormy night. Your story starts… now! Authors, all levels of experience and skill, often drag their feet (or their pen) at the start of a story. Sometimes they’re trying to say too much, trying to give the reader too much detail up front. Watch out for this! Other times, the author…

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Why all writers need a secret stash

Early this year I was interviewed by a rather pompous character called, Bookworm. It was for a Channel 9 kids TV show. I’ll let you know when it screens… At one point during the interview, Bookworm said, ‘I hear you collect words.’ I said, ‘Who told you that?!’ Bookworm was taken aback (and that’s saying something).…

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Why unwriting is a writer’s best friend

  Writers love words. Not just for what they do—create entire universes. They love them as individuals. Most writers (and editors) will blush with delight when handed a dictionary. They enjoy nothing more than ‘word talk’. Who likes pernickety, lilting, lumber, moot? Moot is a queer word. Queer is a great word that’s taken on a…

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What do editors know?

It’s only subjective! They don’t know everything! You have to stick to your guns! Over the years I’ve been privy to conversations wherein authors discuss/ argue/ wail about their editors. Likewise, I’m often asked by aspiring  authors and illustrators, ‘What should I do when my editor makes suggestions and I don’t agree with them?’ Sometimes…

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The 2 problems publishers have with rhyming picture books

Hello, sunshine!  Missing Q & Q Friday? Here’s a transcript from a  lovely one we recorded last year. Thanks to Suzy from Wagga Wagga in NSW for this awesome Q! You can listen, read or watch. Whatever suits you. or visit the Girl and Duck Podcast on iTunes where you can subscribe and listen on the go. The Q: As an aspiring illustrator who…

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Twenty Top Tips: Writing Books for Kids

I have the lurgy, dear reader, and I have spent the day in bed. Here’s what I’ve been doing (in bed): Reading Flow magazine Reading The Element by Ken Robinson Answering emails to sweet people and nice girls Watching Ted Talks Thinking about YOU. That’s why I’ve written this list. I hope you find it…

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Rhyme and rhythm in picture books

Earlier this week I dreamed that I wrote a Little Golden Book— but somehow forgot to tell anyone. In the dream, I was flicking through the book (which was illustrated by Lucinda Gifford but in the style of Gabrielle Wang!) and I thought, ‘This is lovely. I must blog about it.’ I don’t know whether…

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In conversation with a wolf (who is also an illustrator)

When I was an aspiring children’s author back in the 1980s, the only career guidance I could find was Mem Fox’s autobiography. Ahem. Aside from that there was one other book, a textbook, kicking around. But it was fairly lacklustre and I don’t recall its title. Other than that, it was just me and me typewritin’ machine (it…

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