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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nancy is the author of "Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books."
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.