Mary Kole’s new book on craft, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, (Writer’s Digest Books, Dec. 2012), isn’t the kind of book you just read; it’s that kind of book that fires up your brain, makes you stop every few pages to grab a pen and paper, and dash out a line or two. I recognized many of Kole’s points, but the insight was this: Much of what an author does is instinctual; what Kole has done is pull the tools out of the box and assign names to them. How much more useful a tool is when you’re aware it exists!
Culling from specific, contemporary works, Kole explains writing practices and goals. In illuminating “high concept,” she says, “[Readers] want stories that . . . lift them out of the everyday.” Then she asks, “What’s something they can’t experience in reality?” (p. 31) She then cites and deconstructs loglines for Holes, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, and more. It’s this analysis throughout the book that inspires you to put your own work through the same machinations and see if it’s strong enough to hold up. Tips are specific: “Make your middle grade characters firmly thirteen and under” (p. 8), and her discussion on the six things readers should know within the first chapter (p. 78).
Shaded boxes throughout the text contain exercises addressing character specifics, theme specifics, voice specifics, etc. Here, Kole takes the abstract and makes it concrete. You’ll want to print these exercises out and put them together for reference, a boiled-down toolbox for all your work.
In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Kole delivers a user-friendly, specific text on the craft of writing. I found it so useful that it sits on my desk—open—as I work on my next manuscript.
I read Writing Irresistible Kidlit as an advance copy, and Kole uses as one of her published samples my first novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning.