Thursday, January 22, 2015

Guest Post | Top Ten Ways Writing a Novel and Making a Book Trailer are Similar by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Dear Elementary and Middle School Teachers, 

I wish I could mail you a copy of Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish in a Tree. I predict it would take you back to the first time you read Wonder, The Junkyard Wonders, and Thank You, Mr. Falker. It is a heartprint book


Lynda Mullaly Hunt is taking over Watch. Connect. Read. for the day to premiere the book trailer for Fish in a Tree. I am honored and deeply grateful. Please look for this special novel on February 5, 2015. Don't worry. I'll remind you throughout the year. 

Your friend,

-John 



First of all, thank you Mr. Schu for unveiling my book trailer for Fish in a Tree here on Watch. Connect. Read. I am both excited and grateful to be here. I’ll begin with something central to the book.
Great minds don't think alike.





Ally Nickerson, my main character in Fish in a Tree, dismisses her gifts and focuses on what makes her different; she longs to be just like everyone else. I can relate, as there were times in my early writing career when I watched my outline-loving friends and wished my process weren’t so dissimilar. I thought different meant wrong.

My process is akin to dumping puzzle pieces on the floor and then trying to fit them together. Sure, this makes sense for a puzzle—but a novel? However, I now embrace my scattered process (writing all of the chapters of a book completely out of order) because it works for me. I’ve also realized that my processes of both building a book and building a trailer are similar. Here’s how:

1) Everything begins with character. When I write a book, I start with pure character—brainstorming who they may be. Writing a bunch of stuff I know I won’t use just to get to know them. However, by the time I get to the trailer I know every layer of the characters. So, I start with the characters’ longings – which jumpstarts the trailer script. Then I spend hours searching for the images that fit the ones in my head. I don’t have to do this, I know. But I like to. I want to watch the trailer and feel like it’s right.

2) It starts out as a jumbled mess. My process is like one of those shell games. You know when there are multiple shells and the ball is hidden underneath only one. And the person is moving all those shells ‘round and ‘round and the other is trying to keep it all straight. Well I’m both the shell mover and the shell watcher. Throwing out ideas and pictures. Moving them around. Trying to keep them straight. Moving them again. Looking underneath an idea to see if anything is there. I never know under which brainstorm I’ll find the prize until the very end.


Once I have a collection of ideas I like, I work on putting them in order. With a trailer, I then pare things back to the very most important nuggets. With a book, I begin to expand. And then pare things back later. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

3) The music playing is important to me. Let’s face it, folks. Everything is better with violins.

4) The pictures in my head must match what's on the page and or screen.
To the readers/viewers I suppose this wouldn’t matter, but I think if the details feel real to me the book/trailer will feel more authentic to others. It is much easier to achieve this while writing than doing a trailer. In writing, I depend on my keyboard. In trailer making, I depend on searching through others’ pictures and hoping to find a match.


Sparking mind movies is a crucial part of both processes. While crafting a novel, I always carry a notebook in my back pocket to record ideas that light up in my head (much like Ally’s mind movies in Fish in a Tree). I have a running “note page” on my phone as well.

How do I spark movies for a trailer? In that case, I carry a clip of the chosen song (chosen 7 months ago) on my phone. When I play it, it triggers images and emotions which point me in the right direction for the trailer. At least, I hope it does.

Actually, I had a bit of a quandary in choosing music for the Fish in a Tree trailer. My first-choice song had no change in emotion – just hopeful across the board. However, I ended up choosing a song that starts off a bit sad and grows hopeful when the image of Mr. Daniels, the teacher who helps Ally, appears. I feel like I could have mastered Mandarin Chinese in the time it took me to line up the song and images perfectly. But I’m happy now, so it’s all good.

5) Word choice is very important. Every. Word. Must. Count. This is even more important in a trailer.

6) Pacing. If either a book or trailer starts to drag, people often move on. Especially kids. (Hopefully you’ve read this far along in this post.) 

7) Be true. You and your work need to be what they are meant to be—not what you think the market wants. Sometimes writers create things they don’t love but think will sell. Personally, I think a writer needs to write from the gut and push the market out of the process. Focus on writing a decent book with well-developed characters who will linger. That’s probably the best shot at a sale.  

In terms of a trailer, you could very well create a grabber with flash and noise but if it doesn’t match the tone of the book, it isn’t authentic. I’m not a fan of bait and switch. It’s all about authenticity—no matter what part of the publishing process you look at. 

8) Deciding what to include is important—but deciding what to leave out is equally important. As in writing the book itself, I had to choose what to shine a light upon in the trailer. There are parts of the book that mean a great deal to me, personally, that don’t appear there. One example is the setting of AC Petersen Farms. Another is Travis, Ally's older brother. His character served as the emotional foundation for the book from the very beginning. In fact, it would be a far different book without him even though he's a secondary character.

9) Don’t over write. When you do, you dilute the important stuff. Cutting carefully and correctly is very important. For both books and trailers. And diamonds.

10) Lean on your peeps. Boy. This has been an integral part of the process from day one. Literally. With both my writing and the trailer, sometimes I’m just too close to see critically. I did send the trailer out to a few friends to ask their opinions and their thoughts were invaluable.  Their opinions varied greatly, too, which I appreciated.


After all, great minds don’t think alike. 



Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of middle-grade novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), winner of The Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children’s Literature, an ABA New Voices Pick, A Nerdy Book Award Winner, and an Editor’s Choice Book with Scholastic Book Clubs. It also appears on 22 state lists. Lynda has directed the SCBWI-NE Whispering Pines Retreat for eight years and is a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. Her second novel, FISH IN A TREE, will be released in February, 2015. Lynda lives with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle and beagle-loathing cat.


Download the discussion guide for Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphys


Please look for Fish in a Tree on February 5, 2015. 


23 comments:

  1. Thank you so very much, John! I am honored to be here and am touched by the way you set up this post. :-) Also, I love JoEllen as both a teacher and a friend! I consider it a privilege to have Fish in a Tree be considered a #heartprint book. Huge thanks to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love this, Lynda and John. Especially the part about tossing the puzzle pieces, hoping they'll eventually fit :), and writing chapter out of order. Some of my writer friends think I'm crazy, but whatever works is my answer. And this process certainly worked for your books. Can't wait to read "Fish"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Augusta! As the wonderful writer that you are, you understand the messy process. Whatever you are doing, it's working for you! Keep doing it! xo

      Delete
  3. Lynda and John, thank you for this post. Learning about a writer's process is always illuminating. With this post we get a double dose of light. What a fascinating comparison between the writing process AND the process of creating a trailer of the resulting book.

    Heartprint. What a wonderful term. I have had the good fortune to read a copy FISH IN A TREE. It is, indeed, a heartprint book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Mary! I'm so glad you enjoyed it--it was illuminating to me as I wrote it. :-) #heartprint book. Yes. I love the hashtag and the person who came up with it - JoEllen McCarthy is a gem. And so are you, Mary :-)

      Delete
  4. Lynda has a huge talent for painting pictures with words- it's really interesting to hear about how she took the words and then made them into pictures and music! The trailer does a great job of summarizing and giving the flavor of the book, without giving away all the delicious details that readers only find by letting the story unfold through the written pages. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz! A high compliment coming from someone so very talented! xo

      Delete
  5. Oh my goodness, what a great list and such a beautiful book trailer! It captures the heart of the book perfectly. I can't wait until more people can read Fish in a Tree. You have given another wonderful gift to readers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Gigi! I appreciate your support so much. Say hello to that girl of yours for me! :-)

      Delete
  6. I agree with you John, that Fish in a Tree is most definitely a heart print book for readers. I always say that Lynda writes the "heart" of a story!

    Lynda I love how you shared your creating process. Number 7 is my favorite and definitely is reflected not only your writing but in your book trailer too. So excited for readers to meet Ally! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Susan! I am touched by your sweet comment and am grateful for your friendship. You are the kind of teacher who is celebrated in this book :<3

      Delete
  7. I am really looking forward to this book. Thanks fro sharing your process Lynda. The trailer is a real winner!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Darlene! I am grateful that you like the trailer and also took the time to comment here. Thank you again!

      Delete
  8. Great post. I love reading about how the creative process works for any creative endeavor-- in this case novel writing and trailer-making! Can't wait to read the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Jennifer! I can't *wait* to read YOUR next book, too! xo

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. Hey, Caroline! Thanks so much for stopping by--appreciate it so much! xo

      Delete
  10. This is a wonderful introduction to the trailer for Fish in a Tree. It is heartwarming, touching, and beautifully done; and it will surely be the inspiration for many to read this book.

    The comparison between Lynda's writing process and her trailer-making process is both
    fascinating and enlightening. She has the ability to impart knowledge and be entertaining at the same time. Lynda is a gifted writer......and teacher too!

    Thank you, John, for this terrific post; and thank you, Lynda, for writing it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lynda and John, Thank you! The timing of this post is wonderful. Next week I'm introducing our county assigned narrative inquiry project. The kids will write their own narrative piece and produce a book trailer to promote it. We were part of Global Read Aloud and read One for the Murphys, so my kids already have a connection with you. (BTW, you responded to one of our tweets and you made their day!) So this post will tie in perfectly. Thank you again for making my job easier! We cannot wait to read Fish in a Tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Kimberley! What an awesome project you are putting together for your kids. Please tell them hello for me and that I will be sending good writing and trailer-making vibes :-)

      Delete
  12. I love the wisdom, guidance, and humor in this terrific post! Thank you, John and Lynda!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU, Jenny for reading and taking the time to comment. Appreciated!

      Delete