Thursday, June 19, 2008

The SCBWI Writers' Retreat

Shoo Rayner talks about authors and illustrators in the computer age

Books by Shoo Rayner

Shoo uses integrated text and uses Photoshop. He thinks like a designer whilst he is writing. Shoo starts with a character and tries to draw the character. He asks questions like who are you? Why are you there? The whole world develops around the character. Books have to be commercial to sell.

What is an e-book? It can be lots of different things. There are about 200 words a chapter and 2000 words per book for 7-9 year olds or 5-7 year olds. You need to get the books right for the right age group.

Shoo uses Flash for his animations and a tablet. His tablet is wacom graphine. At home he uses an intuous 3. He gets them from the website, He found vector graphics very mathematical. Shoo demonstrated how he work and builds his images using his latest character Ricky Rocket as an example.

A book is a collaboration. You need to work with an editor and get a good relationship. Need to be sensitive to the market and know where the gaps are. He always has lots of projects on the go because he believes a writer needs to be flexible.

An author is one little business working for a bigger picture. He wears lots of hats. He comes up with an idea and pitches it to a publisher. If he leaves it too long he loses enthusiasm. Shoo does not have an agent.

He feels he has been pigeon holed and that is what he does for one company. He’s seen as a brand.

A turning point in his career was when he could output his illustrations as a jpg at 300dp, which is what a publisher wants. He is able to physically draw his illustrations using Flash. Two influential people in his life are Colin McNaughton and Philippe Milne Smith.

Editors really encouraged shoo when he first started. He produced books like Lamb Drover Jim and Victoria the Wednesday Market Bus. He illustrated a series of books by Michael Morpurgo called Mudpuddle Farm.

If writing a series you need to set up the world properly. Need to set up the world first and have jokes that run through the series. Shoo Rayner has written many series books that are now out of print:
In Dark Claw he planned not only the world but the whole solar system. The world helps suggest ideas for the plot. For the planets he used a programme on the Internet called Planet Designer.

You need a good title a good strap line. Write a paragraph. Cut it in half and cut it in half again. Half a dozen words which is snappy, such as Viking Vic, Viking boy, Viking hero. This is the hook that sold his Viking Vik series. Editors can use this to pitch to sales. Need to enthuse your editor as they will be the one selling your book to the company.

When shoo writes his books he starts with a beginning and starts with an end. When setting the world he does not set boundaries as does not like to lock himself in. He has got a good map of where the characters live in his head, which extends to the history around them. For a series shoo believes you need to write all the stories on one go to build them up and cross reference them all the time.

You can re-write a scene from any angle. He uses to illustrate some of his picture books. They provide cheap photos with unlimited use on the Internet and 50,000 copies in books.

For more information about Shoo Rayner take a look at his website:


Wilf said...

This is incredibly interesting, Anita! I also think versatility is one of the keys to having a career in children's writing - I just wish I could draw as well!

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

I'm glad you liked it.