Feb 21

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction – Similarities and Differences

Writing tips and strategiesWriting fiction and writing nonfiction have some distinct similarities and differences.

But, before we get into that, let’s find out the definitions of fiction and nonfiction:

Fiction: According to Merriam-Webster.com, fiction is “something invented by the imagination or feigned, specifically an invented story; the action of feigning or of creating with the imagination.”

Nonfiction: Merriam-Webster’s definition of nonfiction is “literature or cinema that is not fictional.” According to Allwords.com, nonfiction is “written works intended to give facts, or true accounts of real things and events.”

Now on to the similarities and differences.

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction Similarities:

1. You need to start with an idea.
2. You can write about almost anything.
3. You need ‘good’ writing skills (at least you should have good writing skills).
4. You need to have a beginning, middle, and end to the story.
5. You need to have an engaging, entertaining, informative, or interesting story.
6. You can work from an outline or you can seat-of-the-pants it.
7. You may need to do research.
8. You need to revise, proof, and edit your work.

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction: Two Significant Differences

1. If you are writing nonfiction, you must stick to truths and facts, a nickel is a nickel, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, two plus two equals four, and 10 times 10 equals 100. While there may be some grey areas, such as perspective, circumstances, or circumstantial evidence leading up to a fact based story, the fact is always the fact.

As an example: According to “The World’s Easiest Astronomy Book” (Year Published) by Hiroshi Nakagawa, “The speed of light is 300,000 km (186,000 miles) per second, meaning that light could circle the Earth seven and a half times in a single second. Even at this incredible speed it still takes light from the Sun eight minutes to reach the Earth. That means that when we see the Sun, what we actually see is the Sun from 8 minutes ago” (p. 13).

These are facts. If you’re writing a nonfiction story about astronomy, these facts can’t change. Your story is limited to truths and facts. This is not to say the story can’t be amazingly interesting and engaging. The children’s middle-grade nonfiction book “The World’s Easiest Astronomy Book” can certainly spark a child’s imagination and interest in astronomy.

On the other hand, if you’re writing fiction, your imagination is your only limit. You don’t have to stay within the confines of what is known, what is truth. This offers a certain freedom.

If you want the sun to be ‘blood red,’ then it’s blood red. If you want to be able to travel to the moon in the blink of the eye, then it’s so. If you say a character can ‘walk through walls’ or is invisible, then he can and is. You can create new worlds, new beings . . . again, your imagination is your only limit.

2. In writing nonfiction you will most likely need to provide reference sources and add quotes to your story. This is to establish the reliability and credibility of your story.

In this case, you will need to reference the source of the quote.

If you notice above, in regard to the facts about the speed of light, I included the name of the book and the author along with the page number. These references substantiate the facts within your article. This makes your nonfiction story credible.

This is not the case with writing fiction. With fiction, you will NOT need information references for credibility. Although, it’s important to realize that your fiction story will become its own truth and you will need to stay within the confines of the particular story you create.

The reason for this: every story needs structure and intent; it needs to move forward to a satisfying ending. If you move off in too many directions, you’ll lose your intent and most probably your reader. To ensure the structure and your intent remains intact, you’ll need to stay within the confines of the story you create.

While the similarities between writing fiction and writing nonfiction seem to outweigh the differences, the differences are significant enough for most writers to prefer one genre over the other.

Reference Note:
In the quote used above, the publisher of the book usually has a copyright date that would be included in the reference. This book does not have one.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Writing for Children – Character Believability and Conflict
What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable story you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put ‘Children’s Writing Help’ in the Subject line)

This article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2011/12/writing-fiction-and-writing-nonfiction.html

Feb 14

Writing – It’s Not Wise to Revise Too Soon

Writing and revsions.Contributed by Suzanne Lieurance

It’s been said many times that good writing is actually good rewriting, and I certainly think that’s true.

Yet I also know from experience that it is often unwise to revise too soon.

Consider this – when you get a professional critique or an editorial letter, do you immediately read the letter or critique, then rush to get the requested revisions done right then and there?

I see many beginning writers do this because: 1) they have a very busy schedule and don’t want to have these revisions hanging over their head, and 2) they feel it’s more professional to get things done quickly.

But here’s the problem with both of those reasons.

First, if your schedule is so packed that you MUST get everything done right away, you need to lighten up a bit. Good writers need time for reflection, even if that means simply reflecting on suggested revisions.

Second, it IS professional to meet deadlines. But again, writers need time for reflection. If you crank out revisions too soon, you won’t have enough time to mull over what the suggestions really mean and consider all the different ways you could make the suggested revisions.

Next time you get a professional critique or an editorial letter, try this:

1. Read the critique or editorial letter thoroughly. Some of the requested revisions will “sting” a bit, but that’s normal. This sting will subside in a few days – so don’t revise when you’re still feeling the sting.

2. Put the letter or critique aside for a few days and move on to another writing project or something entirely unrelated to writing.

3. Keep the requested revisions in the back of your mind. As you’re taking a shower, going for a walk, or just cleaning the house, think about what the editor has suggested and WHY he or she feels these changes are necessary.

4. After a few days – and NOT before – reread the letter or critique slowly, trying to absorb every change that has been requested. You’ll probably find yourself thinking that these revisions won’t be nearly as difficult or painful as you thought they’d be when you FIRST read the critique or letter.

5. Start to make the requested revisions. And don’t be a lazy rewriter. Do the best job you can with the revisions. Don’t try to work at breakneck speed. Take your time. Try to learn from the editorial suggestions and requests you have been given. Remember – writers need time for reflection – even when that means simply reflecting on the changes an editor has requested.

So take some time to reflect before you revise.

For more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge from Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)
Ingredients for a Perfect Picture Book

Need Help With Your Story
Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line).
Or, if you prefer to actually speak to me, give me a call at: 347=834==6700

Feb 07

Writing Fiction for Children – 4 Simple Tips

Children's writing tipsWriting fiction for children has a number of rules and tricks, the very basics of which are creating believable characters and adding conflict. But, there are many other elements that go into creating an effective and engaging story. Below are four simple tips to help you navigate the children’s writing waters.

1. Show the way to success

While description and a bit of telling have their place, today’s publishers want you to show the story. The technique for ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is to use your character’s five senses, along with dialogue.

The days of, “See Dick and Jane walk down the lane,” are far gone.
Showing allows the reader to connect with the protagonist. The reader is able to feel the protagonist’s pain, joy, fear, or excitement. This creates a connection and prompts the reader to continue reading.
If you’re stuck, and can’t seem to be able to ‘show’ a particular scene, try acting it out. You can also draw on your own experiences, TV, or the movies. Study scenes that convey the ‘showing’ you need to depict.

2. Create synergy

Joining the story together in a seamless fashion is probably the trickiest part of writing fiction. The characters, conflict, plot, theme, setting and other details all need to blend together to create something grander than their individual parts; like the ingredients of a cake. This is called synergy.

It doesn’t matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, all the elements need to weave together smoothly to create the desired affect you are going for: humor, mystery, action, fantasy, or other.

If you have an action packed plot driven story, but it lacks believable and sympathetic characters, you’re story will be lacking. The same holds true if you have a believable and sympathetic character, but the story lacks movement, it will usually also fall short.

All this must be done in an engaging manner, along with easy to understand content.

3. Keep it lean

According to multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke, today’s children’s publishing world is looking for tight writing. Choose your words for their ability to convey strong and distinct actions, create imagery, and move the story forward.

The publishing costs for picture books over 32 pages is beyond what most publishers are willing to spend, so word counts should be well under 1000, and be sure to make each word count. Keep in mind that the illustrations will add another layer to the story and fill in the blanks.

When writing fiction for young children, the younger the children, the leaner the writing. This means if you’re writing for toddlers or preschoolers, you should limit your word count to a range of 100 to 250 words.

4. Be part of a critique group

This is a must for all writers, but especially for children’s writers. There are so many additional tricks of the trade that you need to be aware of when writing for children, you’ll need the extra sets of eyes.

Your critique partners will no doubt be able to see what you missed. This is because you are too close to your own work. They will also be helpful in providing suggestions and guidance. Just be sure your critique group has experienced, as well as new writers.

Belonging to a ‘writing fiction for children’ critique group will also help you hone your craft.

Use these four tips to help create a ‘synergized’ story.

What strategies do you use to take your story up a notch?

MORE ON WRITING

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components
Finding Age Appropriate Words When Writing For Children
Getting to Know Your Characters

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Jan 31

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

Writing for ChildrenWriting in general is a tough craft, although many may not think so. The writer has to take individual words and craft them together to create: interest, suspense, romance, humor, grief, fantasy, other worlds . . . the list goes on and on. And, it must be done with clarity.

While there is an abundance of information about writing and writing for children, it can easily become overwhelming, and even confusing. But, getting down to the nitty-gritty, there are two basic elements or rules to writing fiction for children you need to be aware of: creating believable characters and having conflict.

Writing Fiction for Children – Your Characters Need Believability

1. Your Characters Need Believability

Your characters, especially your protagonist, need to create a bond or connection with the reader. In order to create that connection you will need to care about your characters. If you don’t, you’ll never get a reader to care. Make your characters believable and interesting.

In addition to this, you need to know your characters and remember their traits, physical characteristics, temperament, and so on. I’m sure there are instances, if you’re writing by the seat-of-your-pants rather than from an outline, where your character may do something you didn’t plan, but usually it’s a good idea to know what makes him tick.

Even the choices your protagonist makes will help define him, and create a deeper bond with the reader. Does he take the high road to reach his goals, or does he sneak in under the wire? Does he create options to choose from, or is he sweep along by the current of the story, grabbing at lifelines for survival? Are his choices a struggle?

You can keep track of your characters’ quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features by noting them on a page as they become unveiled.

2. Conflict is a must

A story’s conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, under, or through it.

Conflict will drive your story forward and give the reader a reason to stay involved. Conflict is basically an obstacle between your protagonist and what she wants or needs. It may be a crisis, a desire, a relationship, a move, or other. It can be caused by internal or external factors. Does overcoming one obstacle/conflict lead to another? Does she have help, or are others thwarting her efforts?

Along with this, there should be more than one conflict. For children’s writing, there may be two or three conflicts; as one is overcome another takes its place. A good rule is to think in threes: three characters, three problems, and three solutions.

This is only the beginning and most basic of the tips that new writers of children’s fiction should be aware of. There are many more that I’ll touch on in other articles.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)
Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Jan 25

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls

Middle-grade fantasy adventure storyWhen a writer’s muse seems to be on vacation, she may be at a loss for story ideas. While there are a number of sites and tools online to help get the creative juices flowing, one tool that writers might overlook is studying folktales.

Reading folktales is a great way to spin a new yarn, especially for children’s writing. I recently did a review of a children’s picture book published by Sylvan Dell that was based on an American Indian folktale. This shows they are publishable.

Folktales, also known as tall tales, and folklore, are stories specific to a country or region. They are usually short stories dealing with everyday life that come from oral tradition that is passed from generation to generation. Most often these tales involve animals, heavenly objects, and other non-human entities that possess human characteristics.

There is Mexican folklore, Irish folklore, Chinese folklore, as well as folklore from many other countries that have tales unique to their area. There is also American folklore that encompasses stories from each of the 50 states. There is a huge supply of stories to spin and weave.

In addition to reviewing a couple of published children’s books that were based on folktales, I wrote a children’s fantasy story based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Interestingly, prior to receiving an outline of the tale from a Chinese nonfiction writer I knew from one of my writing groups, I never thought of rewriting folktales. But, once given the outline, I loved the story and the message it presented. The outline itself was very rough and written with an adult as the main character (MC), which is often the case with very old folktales.

After reading the story I knew the MC would need to become a child. I think every children’s writer is aware that children want to read about children, not adults. And, the MC needs to be a couple of years older than the target audience the author is writing for.

Based on this, I decided to make my MC a 12-year-old boy. And, since I liked the ancient Chinese flavor of the story, I kept it and made the story take place in the 16th century China. After this was set, I needed to come up with a title and the MC’s name.

When choosing a title for your book, it’s important to keep it in line with the story and make it something that will be marketable to the age group you’re targeting. I chose Walking Through Walls, and it is scheduled to be available March 2011(published through 4RV Publishing).

As far as the character’s name, you will need to base it on the time period and geographic location of the story, unless the character is out of his element. Since my story was to take place in China, I used a Chinese name, Wang.

To keep the flavor of your story consistent, you will also need to give it a feeling of authenticity. This will involve some research. How did the people dress during the time of your story? What names were used? What did they eat? What type of work or schooling was available? What locations might you mention? What type of crops and vegetation would be present? What types of homes did they live in? There are many aspects of the story that you will want to make as authentic as possible. And, it does matter, even in fiction stories; it will add richness to your story.

The next time you’re in the library, ask the librarian to show you a few folktales. Then imagine how you might rewrite one or more of them for today’s children’s book market.

Walking Through Walls was honored with a Children’s Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award! Get your copy today at Amazon.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components
Learn to Write for Children – 3 Basic Tools
Children’s Writing and Publishing Jargon – 11 of the Basics

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Dec 27

The Outlining Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)

The outline method of writingAre you an outliner or a pantser? I don’t know if there has been a study of how many writers prefer each, but I know there are many in both camps. You know the saying, “different strokes for different folks.”

But, before I go on, the definition of an outliner is a writer who creates a written (or typed) outline of the plot of their story. A pantser is a writer who creates the story as she goes along – no outline. The story unfolds as she is writing it.

If I had to take a guess though, I’d say the majority of writers/authors are outliners (plotters).

The reason?

Creating an outline of a story before delving into it provides a foundation. It’s something to build upon. It’s like a map. You mark out your driving route. You know you’re going from Point A to Point B. You see the highways, roads, and so on between those two points. And, they’re all written out in your outline.

It’s interesting to know that there are different kinds of outliners. Some create full detailed accounts of getting from Point A to Point B. Some simply have a rough outline of what the story will be about – possibly that John is at A and has to get to B.

Jeff Ayers (a top crime writer), in his article “Doing What He Loves,” in the May 2009 issue of the Writer, says:

Outlining allows me time to think. Does this ever happen to you–you’re in line at the market, some pushy person cuts in front of you, you mumble something ineffectual or stupid, then when you’re 10 blocks away the light bulb goes off, and you think “That’s what I shouda said!” Well, outlining gives me the 10 blocks to think of something better.

I think this is an excellent explanation of why writers use the outline method of writing.

In the article, Ayers explains that he spends lots of time outlining. In addition to coming up with ideas, it allows him to get better acquainted with his characters. This more intimate knowledge allows him to bring them to life.

As I mentioned earlier, outlining is like using a map. But, depending on how detailed you make your outline, it can be more like a GPS. It can lead you street by street from your starting point to your ending point.

Even if you run into a detour that was unexpected, as in writing can happen, you have a guided system in place to get you back on track. And, if it’s very, very detailed, you even know where the rest stops are, where to eat, where the scenic sites are, and so on. It doesn’t leave much to chance.

Knowing every step, every detour, all the characters . . . there is a comfort in this method.

I’m much more of a pantser, but I have used outlines now and then. And, it certainly does offer a sense of security. But, with that said, I love to watch my story unravel before me. I love to watch characters develop and move forward – they kind of write the story themselves. This comes with the pantser method.

It seems though that no matter which style you use, it’s not a guarantee of success or failure.

Gail Carson Levine has some good advice in regard to this, “Quality comes from word choice, plot, characters – all the elements [of a good story].”

Which writing method do you use?

Reference:
Outlining vs. Pantsing

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components
Finding Age Appropriate Words When Writing For Children
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable book you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Dec 16

Talking about A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree in the Classroom

children's picture bookToday I’m hosting Day 3 of a 5-day virtual book tour for “A Caterpillar, a Bee and a Very Big Tree,” written by brother and sister pair, Dicksy Wilson and D. B. Sanders. This book tour is sponsored by The National Writing for Children Center.

This rhyming picture book teaches cadence and rhythm and has a sing-song feel in places. The charming characters and illustrations will inspire young minds and immerse children in the action from the first page through the last. The main and recurring theme in the book is simple: “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

Throughout the tale, readers learn a few different important life lessons. Each of the following lessons can be used as a talking point for group discussion in the classroom or by parents as they read the book with their own child or children:

Lesson 1 – BE YOURSELF

In the earliest part of the story, a brief lesson in individuality comes from the main characters – a caterpillar named Gus who is a self-proclaimed procrastinator and not like the other “green fuzzies” and a bee named Shoo who is allergic to pollen and unable to work with the other “buzz-buzzies.” While they discuss the fact that they are different from their own respective kind, they decide that they can be friends with one another regardless of how they are viewed by others.

Discussion Tip:

After students have read or listened to the story, have them list the ways the main characters were unique. Have them next make a list of their own unique qualities. They can also list the unique qualities of their best friend and decide which (if any) qualities they share with their best friend.

Lesson 2  –  HELP OTHERS

When the pair is faced with the conflict of the story – a huge storm coming straight for the mighty oak in which all of the other diligent caterpillars have already spun their cocoons – a lesson of helping others becomes the theme of the book. Gus and Shoo decide that they have to take a risk to save all of the others who may not have tied their cocoons tightly enough. They work together to overcome a multitude of obstacles in order to save the day, and, although they sometimes get a little panicked and overwhelmed with the task at hand, they always find a way to cooperatively solve the problems before them.

Discussion Tip:

Have students discuss all the obstacles the characters have to overcome, then have them tell about obstacles in their own lives that they’ve had to overcome.

Lesson 3 –  THINK POSITIVE

Both characters deal with their own self-doubt along the way, but they rely on the gentle encouragement of each other and embrace a positive thinking approach. When Shoo doubts his ability to carry Gus to the top of the tree, Gus smiles at his friend, “I just know you can do it… you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” In the end, Shoo helps Gus overcome his fear of flying after he transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

Discussion Tip:

Have students discuss the techniques the characters used to think positively. Next, have them create or list some techniques they can use themselves to think positively in trying times.

Lesson 4 – NEVER GIVE UP

Throughout the book there are lessons about taking the time to slow down, think things through and never give up.

Teaching Tip:
Have students point out scenes in the book where the characters slow down to think things through and never give up. Have students talk about times in their own lives when they’ve felt like giving up. What kept them going?

Follow the entire virtual book tour for A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree by finding all the links for the tour at The National Writing for Children Center.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory
Writing Children’s Books – Genre Differences
How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper

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Dec 14

Learn to Write for Children – 3 Basic Tools

Tools to help your write for childrenWe all know how difficult it is to break into the business of writing for children. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it is a tough business and can be overwhelming for those just starting out. While all writing must adhere to certain guidelines, writing for children has additional principles unique to its genre.

To start, the words used in children’s writing must be age appropriate. This may sound easy to do, but it can be a difficult task. There are also certain techniques and tricks used specifically in writing for children, such as the Core of Three, sentence structure, and the timeframe in which the story should occur when writing for young children. In addition, it’s essential to make sure your conflicts, storyline, and point of view are appropriate for the age group you’re writing for.

Along with this, there are general techniques for writing, such as adding sensory details, showing instead of telling, and creating an engaging story that hooks the reader right away, along with great dialogue and correct punctuation.

This is just the beginning though, there is also the business of editing your work, the book summary, writing a winning query, and following submission guidelines; the list goes on and on.

But, don’t get discouraged, there is help.

Here are three basic tools to get you started and guide you down the children’s writing path:

1. Children’s Writer’s WORD BOOK by Alijandra Mogilner is a great resource that provides word lists grouped by grades along with a thesaurus of listed words. This allows you to check a word in question to make sure it is appropriate for the age group you’re writing for. It also provides reading levels for synonyms. It’s a very useful tool and one that I use over and over.

2. Read and learn about how to write for children. There are plenty of books and courses you can find online that will help you become a ‘good’ children’s writer. One in particular is: The Institute of Children’s Literature.

3. The Frugal Editor by award winning author and editor, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is a useful book for any writing genre, including children’s. It is great resource that guides you through basic editing, to getting the most out of your Word program’s features, to providing samples of queries. The author provides great tips and advice that will have you saying, “Ah, so that’s how it’s done.”

I’ve invested in a number of books, courses and programs in writing and marketing, and know value when I see it; these products have a great deal of value for you as a writer, and they are definitely worth the cost.

I consider these three resources essential tools in my children’s writing tool belt. But, the most important aspect of creating a writing career is to actually begin. Remember, you can’t succeed if you don’t try. It takes that first step to start your journey, and that first step seems to be a huge stumbling block for many of us. Don’t let procrastination or fear stop you from moving forward – start today!

MORE ON CHILDREN’S WRITING

Ingredients for a Perfect Picture Book
Book Marketing and the Query Letter
What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

Want to take your writing (your story) up a notch? Want to make it pubishable?

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Dec 06

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components

Tips on writing a book summaryAfter your book query, the book summary or description is the most important marketing element. You can think of it as number 2 on the book marketing ladder.

Once your book query gets the reader to actually read it, the summary is what will entice the editor or agent to ask for more.

If you’re writing fiction, this means taking your novel, short story, or other fiction genre and reducing it, condensing it, to around 200 words. Many authors, especially new ones, have a difficult time with this. How do you turn a 35,000 children middle grade book into 200 words? How do you turn a 250,000 word novel into 200 words?

Impossible!

Well, as impossible as it may seem, that’s what you need to do to get your manuscript out your door and into a publishing house.

So, what’s involved in writing a ‘killer’ book summary?

According to Margaret Fortune, in an article at Writer’s Digest, the “synopsis [summary] is about one thing: Convincing an agent [or editor] to read your book.” (1)

Again, you book query made the editor/agent look, but it’s the summary that will have her wanting more.

The summary breaks the manuscript into five primary components:

1. Main characters

Once the reader gets to the point of reading your summary, you need to provide an engaging protagonist (main character). This very brief portrayal must demonstrate the protagonist’s individuality. The reader must be able to relate to the character through some trait, goal, peculiarity, or other.

In my middle grade fantasy adventure, “Walking Through Walls,” the protagonist didn’t want to labor in the fields like his father. He wanted more. He wanted to find the Eternals, a mystical group who had extraordinary powers. In fact, he obsessed over finding them.

This gives the protagonist a particular characteristic, an edge. It sets him apart.

2. Plot, including setting

This is one of the toughies. You want to be descriptive, but you need to make it lean. Give enough, but don’t give too much.

According to the article Shrink Tank by Grace Bello, “The key is to entice, not to reveal all.” (2)

TIP: A helpful way to condense your story is to first create 10 different elevator pitches for it. These are one or two sentences that you could convincing get out within a 30-60 second elevator ride.

Once you can narrow the manuscript down to an elevator pitch, you should find it easier to write a 200 word overview.

3. Tone

The tone is established through phrasing and even word choices, such as positive or negative words. The tone is subjective – it’s the author’s attitude toward the story or components within the story.

Write the summary in the same tone [narrative voice] as the book. If it’s humorous, make the summary humorous. If it a mystery or suspense, keep that tone in the summary.

4. Genre

The editor or agent will of course want to know the genre, so be sure to include it.

TIP: If you submit a children’s story to a romance book publisher, that editor won’t be interested in your story – no matter how well-crafted your summary is. So, be sure you research the publishing houses and/or agents you intend to submit your query and summary to. Be sure the accept submissions in your genre.

5. Comparable titles

While years ago, this wasn’t an issue, it is now. Agents and publishers want to know what they can compare your story to.

As an example, my middle grade fantasy book mentioned above, is set in 16th century China. It has the elements of respect and honor that the time period conjures up. If I had to compare it to something similar, I’d have to go with “A Single Shard,” by Linda Sue Park.

This is in no way stating it’s as good as “A Single Shard,” it’s saying that it has a similar tone and mood to that book.

TIP: Be careful with this component. You don’t want to puff your book up by comparing it to a great book. As with my example above, I’d be quick to mention that it’s only comparable in tone and mood.

References:

(1) http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/tips-for-queriers-the-query-the-synopsis-and-the-first-page
(2) The Writer, October 2013, Shrink Tank, page 33.
(3) http://ourenglishclass.net/class-notes/writing/the-writing-process/craft/tone-and-mood/

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Book Marketing and the Query Letter
Children’s Writing and Publishing Jargon – 11 of the Basics
What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

 

 

Nov 30

Finding Age Appropriate Words when Writing for Children

Words and children's writingWriting in general can be a tough business; writing for children is even tougher. Writing for children has its own unique tricks, processes, and rules; one of those rules is using words that are age appropriate.

How this differs from writing in general is that the children’s writing arena is divided into specific age groups.

There are picture books and rebus stories for the very young child. The story line and text are simple; they need to tell a story including basic conflict and action, but they are geared toward the comprehension of young children.

Next comes early readers. Again, the words used and plot are relatively simple to help the child learn to read.

The next genre is chapter books. Here the plot and words grow just like the child has. The story can be more involved and geared to hold the child’s attention with mild mystery, suspense, and fantasy.

Then it’s on to middle grade. At this point, the child has grown and has greater comprehension and vocabulary, so should the stories for them. The plot and conflict can be more complex than the earlier chapter books.

Finally, it’s on to young adult. This genre’s stories can be sophisticated and involved enough to attract adult readership. But, it obviously should still be written avoiding hard core subject matter. While it can deal with just about all topics, it should be void explicit adult context.  Writing for adults is simpler; the writer usually writes with the vocabulary he/she is use to.

The question is: How does a writer know which words are specific to a particular age group?

Unless you are an experienced writer and have become very familiar with the different age group vocabularies, you will need help in this area.

Three Sources/Tools for Finding Age Appropriate Words

1. A source that I’ve found very useful is Children’s Writers Word Book, 2nd Edition, by Alijandra Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner. It lists specific words that are introduced at seven key reading levels (kindergarten through sixth grade). It provides a thesaurus of those words with synonyms, annotated with reading levels. In addition, it offers detailed guidelines for sentence length, word usage, and themes at each reading level. I find it a valuable tool in my writing toolbelt.

2. Another great source is http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-dale-chall-test.php which utilizes Spache and Dale formulas. This is an amazing site that allows you to input 200 words, choose a readability formula (what grade level you are writing for), and click for the results. The program, OKAPI (an internet application for creating curriculum-based assessment reading probes) will return a readability analysis of your text, indicating what grade level the particular content is appropriate for. This particular webpage is for 4th grade words, but there’s a link to find lower grade words.

3. Next is http://bogglesworldesl.com/dolch/lists.htm. This site provides printable wordlists for each grade level. The lists are limited, but it does give a good indication of appropriate words for the particular age group you are writing for.

All three of these resources are useful in finding just the right words for the children’s writer. There are also other books and sites available that will help you in your search for those age appropriate words for your children’s book, just do a search.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

10 Rules for Writing Children’s Stories
Is Your Manuscript Ready for Submission?
Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line).