Saturday, 7 March 2015

Choose your Mentor Texts by Nancy I. Sanders #ChaBooCha


Choose Your Mentor Text: It’s Your Flashlight in the Dark!

Joining the ChaBooCha challenge is such an exciting adventure! But as any brave explorer would do before embarking on a journey, choose a reliable flashlight to help you find your way.

For writers, our flashlight is a mentor text. What exactly is a mentor text, you may ask? In a nutshell, it’s a chapter book that you want YOUR chapter book to be similar to. Your book won’t be similar in content to your mentor text, but in many other elements, it can follow your mentor text very very closely.

How should you choose a mentor text?
If there is a publisher you want to eventually submit your chapter book manuscript to, choose one of their current published books that you want your own book to be like. If there is an agent you’d like to submit your manuscript to, choose one of their client’s recently published books that you want your own book to be like. If you plan on self-publishing your own book or just writing a new chapter book for the experience, choose a current published chapter book that again, you want your own book to be like. If you’re following along with my teleclass, Write Your Middle Grade Novel in One Month (available at http://www.workingwritersclub.com/10253/writers-workshops-3/write-a-middle-grade-novel-in-one-month-presented-by-nancy-i-sanders/), the mentor texts are already chosen for you.

Once you select your mentor text, the first thing to do is read it straight through for pleasure. Then it’s time to dissect it and see what works for it so that it can shine a light on your own writer’s path as you move forward through the month to write your book.

TIPS ON DISSECTING YOUR MENTOR TEXT

Format
How many chapters does your mentor text have? How many words are in each chapter? How many words are in the total book? (If your book is listed on Renaissance Learning, they’ll already have that word count listed for you. Type in your title at http://www.renaissance.com/store/quiz_home.asp?c=1 )

Plan to write your own manuscript with a similar format as your mentor text.

Plot
How does your mentor text’s plot develop? If it’s based on a three-act structure, in which chapters are the plot points to move from Act 1 into Act 2 and to move from Act 2 into Act 3? What significant event happens in the very middle of the story? If you’re not sure how to chart the plot of a published book, visit my blog for help at https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/basic-plot-worksheet-a/

Plan to write your own manuscript with a similar plot structure as your mentor text.

Setting
How does your mentor text develop setting? Is there a short paragraph of description at the opening of each chapter to put the characters in their place? Or are there pages of words that paint each scene?

Again, look closely at the techniques your mentor text uses to develop the setting and plan on developing your own setting with similar techniques.

Character
What techniques does your mentor text use to develop the cast of characters in its story? Are there three strong character tags for the main character? How do the voices of each character differ from one another? How are the main character’s motives developed? How does the main character solve the main story problem? Is there much inner dialogue within the heart and mind of the main character?

Study the character development in your mentor text and plan on using some of the same techniques to develop your own cast of characters.


A well-chosen mentor text can help improve your own writing as nothing else can. Instead of stumbling around not knowing where you are going with your chapter book in the month ahead, your mentor text can shine the light more clearly on the path ahead of you and put your feet on solid ground.

About the author


Nancy I. Sanders grew up on a dairy farm in Everett, Pennsylvania, with 5 older sisters and 1 older brother. She spent her childhood days milking the cows, baling hay, and ice skating in the winter. She also spent many happy hours with her nose in a favorite book whether perched high up in an apple tree or floating on a raft in the middle of their pond. Today Nancy loves to write and is the author of nearly 100 books including Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.. Now, one of her favorite things is to encourage other writers and help them learn practical strategies to use to build their own successful and satisfying career.


Give-away

The Chapter Book Challenge has given away a copy of this book every year since the site's inception, and this year is no exception. Comment on this post in order to be entered into a drawing to win this book. Only signed-up members are eligible. Winner will be drawn at noon on March 31st, 2015. 

39 comments:

  1. This is a great post, thanks Nancy! Although I don't think I've ever called it a 'mentor text' (neat idea), I always return to my bookshelf for inspiration and guidance while writing. Whenever I question: 'how long should this be? How long are the chapters? How is this paced?' I return to my bookshelf, choose my favourite book which most closely resembles the kind of book I'm writing, and take guidance from there.

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    1. I love hearing how you've been so "intuitive" regarding this concept. Hooray for you!

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  2. Nancy, Thank you for sharing your tips. As I work through my chapter book series, I'm also doing Carrie's ReFoReMo. And I wish to echo the need for "current" mentor texts.

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    1. What a busy month you're having! And aren't mentor text sooooo helpful?!

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  3. Thank you nancy for this post. I enjoyed reading it. Your books have taught me a lot.

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    1. Thanks, Rita! I'm so glad all of these things are helping you along your writing journey.

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  4. I've never heard of a mentor text before. Choosing one should be fun! :)

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    1. Oh I can tell you're going to have lots of fun with this!!!!!

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  5. This is the best post I've read on the subject of mentor texts. You have a knack for boiling down the essence of a topic. I guess that's what attracted me to your blog last year during ChaBooCha. I've been following it ever since and am indebted to you for the effect it's had on my productivity! A big thank-you to Nancy and Becky!

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    1. Joanne, thanks for your kind words. I'm so glad your productivity has been influenced for the better. Yay!

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  6. Nancy offers so much to her writing community. I am glad I found this wonderful mentor. Thank you! I'm not sure that I finished the last step in completely signing in to the Chapter Book Challenge, but in case I did, I'm entering!!!!

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    1. So glad you signed in, Mona! You're a gem. :o)

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  7. Yep, reading is part of the writing business. I'm sure I spend as much time with books as I do my keyboard! Well said, Nancy, I'm sure your book is terrific (fingers crossed I win it!) :-)

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    1. I love how you're a dedicated reader, Cathy. That means you're a dedicated writer, too!

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  8. I'm glad there's a way to get a word count for the nonfiction.

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  9. I have a copy of Nancy's other book, Yes! You Can Learn Hot to Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. It's multiple, dog-earred pages signal it's referred to often. I'd love to have this one on how to write chapter books!

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    1. The thought of your dog-earred pages made me smile. :o)

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  10. I own this great book of Nancy's on writing chapter books and we are studying it in the Facebook group Word by Word. Chockful of easy-to-read, easy-to-follow lessons and advise, just like this post. TY Nancy for sharing your expertise so freely w/us all.

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    1. Thank YOU, Kathy, for all your kudos! So glad you're finding all this helpful.

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  11. I'm learning a lot about writing children's book from Nancy and would love to win a copy of her book.

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  12. I have two chapter book ideas on the to-do list, but admit that I haven't started yet. This is inspiring me to get to work on them! Nancy is a ball of fire--between her own posts and this I feel like a slacker. I would love to win a copy of her book to catch up with the Word by Word bunch.

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  13. I am also doing Carrie Charley Brown's ReFoReMo and have to admit it was the first time I had ever heard the term "mentor texts" ~ thanks so much for this detailed explanation. I appreciate the way you have broken each section down and for the tips on how to use that information to help our own work.

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  14. Thank you for the post, I have never thought about doing this in detail. Although I often read books on similar themes before and during my writing!

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  15. Thank you for starting this -- I'm sure I will find the deadline and information very helpful!

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  16. So glad I am following along. I am learning so much about your process. Thank you

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  17. Thanks for walking with us through the writing process and being such a generous mentor!

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  18. Thanks Nancy, I have enjoyed following along with you for the last few months, you are a wealth of information.

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  19. great idea.. ive heard that for pb's b4, but nt for chap books! thank you

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  20. Very inspiring! I am thinking about a mentor text... Hmmm.

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  21. What a great prize! I was thinking the book I was writing is sort of like another book (though not quite). I should give it another read and compare it to what I'm writing! Thanks Nancy!

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  22. Thank you for all your kind words. And so glad so many of you have found this info helpful! I think as readers we've always kind of sort of had our "mentor text" somewhere in the back of our mind, but it makes such a difference when we focus on learning from a specific book we choose as our mentor text. Happy writing everyone!

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  23. Thanks for sharing this :) i'm currently devouring as many book in the style that i want to read in but i've yet to discect them

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  24. THank you Nancy for such a wonderful post! As I was reading it I was picturing one of my all time favorite books to use as my "mentor text"! Thank you for the inspiration and also for sharing your time with us!

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  25. Great tips. I hadn't thought of a mentor text before, though I do often read books my kids had at a similar age to what I'm writing and books with similar themes :)

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  26. I'm reading this book now and am amazed by how much helpful information it contains. Thank you, Nancy!

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  27. Great post! I love your tips on dissecting a mentor’s text. I had never heard the term "mentor's text" until Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo

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  28. Interesting. I've never used a mentor text before. Going to find one for my current chapter book.

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  29. Great advise! Mentor texts are so important, but there isn't time to read everything. Love your tips for narrowing down the selection.

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