Nov 22

Ingredients for the Perfect Picture Book

Picture book writingWriting for young children can be tricky. It’s not as straight forward as writing for adults. You can’t use your own vocabulary and need to be careful of age appropriate story lines. You also need to introduce your main character immediately.

It’s also important to keep in mind that children don’t have the same comprehension level as an adult, so all aspects of the story need to be clear and geared toward the age group you’re writing for.

So, what exactly does a children’s writer need to include in a picture book?

Let’s go over the basic ingredients of picture books:

1.    The story should include: a surface level, an underlying meaning level, and a take-away level. This means young children should be engaged by it; older children should get a little deeper meaning or realization from it; and parents or the reader should be able to see the take-away value.

2.    The story should be written with a 50/50 formula. Be sure to allow for 16 illustrations (a picture book usually has 32 pages). And, allow the illustrator to tell part of the story. Picture books are a partnership between the author and illustrator. For example: Instead of telling the reader that John grabbed his favorite blue shirt with red and yellow footballs on it, just write that John grabbed his favorite shirt. Your illustrator will know how to depict the scene.

3.    Children love action and need to be engaged so be sure to include action. Being use to TV and movies, writers need to account for the waning attention spans of children.

4.    Show rather than tell. The ‘powers that be’ in the children’s publishing world frown upon telling a story.

5.    The story should have a flow or rhythm and structure to it.

6.    The story should have predictability. This pulls children in; they think they know what’s going to happen next based on what’s happened before in the story.

For example: In the story Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, a group of monkeys took a peddler’s caps and put them on their heads. The peddler tried to coax the monkeys to give back the caps, but every action the peddler took, the monkeys mimicked. They stomped their feet, shook their hands, but they wouldn’t give the peddler back his caps. Finally, in anger, the peddler threw his own hat from his head to the ground.

Can you see a child’s mind working and thinking each time the peddler does something else? He/she is going to guess that the monkeys will mimic each action.

7.    Finally, the story should have an unexpected ending relating to something that happened in the story. We’ll go back to Caps for Sale. The peddler tried everything and finally, in anger and not realizing, he threw his hat to the ground. What do you think the monkeys did? Down came all the caps.

“Ah,” the reader will say, “he should have done that in the first place.”

Along with these basic ingredients, there are a couple of toppings needed:

1.    Use age appropriate words.
2.    Use age appropriate story lines.
3.    Be sure to have your main character (point of view) speak first so the child/reader will quickly know who the protagonist is.
4.    Use proper grammar and punctuation.

Now you can cook up a picture book!

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors
Become an Author – 5 Basic Rules

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)

Nov 15

Book Marketing and the Query Letter

The query letter and book marketing.If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.

This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.

Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?

The query is the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.

The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.

If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)

The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).

Here are 8 elements you should be aware of:

1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?

You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like WritersMarket.com.

I recommend you get Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (current year).

2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!

3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?

4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.

5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.

6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information, if any.

7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.

8. Have you studied the query letter format?

The format consists of several paragraphs?

a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.

Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.

The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, you’re manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Children’s Ghostwriting Fees – Does Price Equal Quality?
Getting to Know Your Characters
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 and saleable book.

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

Nov 08

Children’s Writing and Publishing Jargon – 11 of the Basics

Writing and publishing jargon for children's writersThe writing and publishing arena have a number of words specific to the industry, its lingo or jargon. Below are some of the most important ones for the children’s author.

1. Manuscript (MS)

This is what your draft is called once it’s complete and ready for submission.

2. Synopsis

This is a short summary of the manuscript. It’s best to try to keep it to one page.

3. Proposal

The proposal is what you’ll send an editor or agent to pitch a nonfiction book. It should be detailed and include:

-A ‘hook’ cover letter
-Table of contents
-A market analysis (why the book will be successful based on marketing aspects)
-Author bio and platform
-Outline (brief summary of each chapter)
-Completed sample chapters (submit the number of chapters the guidelines require)

4. Query

This is a one-page letter to an editor or agent explaining what your manuscript is about. It should also include a bit on who you are and what your qualifications (experiences) are for writing this particular story (if there are any). You should also include a brief paragraph on how you intend to help market the book.

For more on writing and sending queries, check out:
Be Specific and Professional When Submitting Queries

Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional

5. Sample Chapters

These chapters should be completed and used for book proposal. For fiction work, if you an editor of agent and she is interested, she may request sample chapters. These chapters should be first ones in the story.

For nonfiction work, you can choose the chapters you feel best represent the story.

6. Platform

Your author platform is your online presence, your visibility and ability to market and sell your book. Your platform allows you to bring website traffic (visitors) to your site, build your perceived authority / expertise, and develop a relationship with readers. This includes having a social media presence also. A platform is a must for every writer.

If you need help building your platform or bring it to the next level, check out:
Give Your Author/Writer Business a Boost with Inbound Marketing

7. Picture book (PB)

These books range from bedtime stories to ages 7 and 8. They have simple stories with one protagonist (main character). The story is told from the protagonist’s POV (point of view).

8. Easy (early) readers

These are the first ‘chapter stories’ for the beginning reader, aged around 6-8, or younger. These stories are usually between 500 and 1,500 words with illustrations here and there throughout. The story line is still kept simple and should still have only the protagonist’s POV.

9. Chapter books

These books are usually for ages 7-9, but can range from 6-12. The word count is boosted to 5,000 to under 15,000 words. Since the reader is developing her reading skills, the vocabulary, sentence structure, and story line is broadened.

10. Middle grade (MG)

These books usually cover ages 9-12. The can include more than one POV and have more complicated story lines. The word count varies. An average guideline is 20,000 (for younger middle grade) to 35,000 (for upper middle grade).

11. Young adult (YA)

This genre encompasses the twelve to sixteen and up age group. YAs can be edgy; plots and characters can be complex and serious issues addressed.

For a more detailed breakdown of children’s genres, go to:
Writing Children’s Books: Genre Differences

12. Draft

I included this additional term because some beginning writers wonder what the difference is between a draft and a manuscript.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, a draft is “a piece of writing or drawing that is done early in the development of a work to help prepare it in its final form.”

So, a draft is what you initially create and work on until it’s polished into the final manuscript.

References:
October 2014 of Writer’s Digest, “Industry Lingo” on page 22.
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-8-essential-elements-of-a-nonfiction-book-proposal

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Plot and Your Story – Four Formats
Make Your Children’s Writing Website Focused – 3 Must-Haves, 6 Tips
How Do You Make a Good Story Worth of Getting Past the Gatekeeper

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your idea, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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)

Nov 01

Children’s Ghostwriter Fees – Does Price Equal Quality?

Fees for ghostwriting a children's bookAs a ghostwriter for children’s books, I get a number of queries each month. And, interestingly, I never know if the potential client will think my prices are too high, too low, or just right.

It seems that around $15,000 is the norm to ghostwrite a middle-grade book of 35,000 words. To me though, that seems like a lot of money. There are people out there who long to ‘write’ a book, but don’t know how or don’t have the time – that’s where a ghostwriter comes in.

According to Writer’s Market 2017, the lower-end pricing to ghostwrite with NO credit is $0.50 per word. The higher-end is $3.00 per word.

But, how many people can afford $15,000 or more to fulfill a dream?

Pricing is too low.

Because of this, I try to keep my fees affordable, within the reach of more people.

The same goes for writing picture books.

I’ve actually had potential clients call and question why my fee for ghosting a children’s picture book was low. And, I know I’ve lost a few projects because of this – I could tell they equated price with quality.

The same has happened with middle-grade projects.

So, what’s a writer to do?

While I have upped my fees, they are still extremely reasonable and under what other ghostwriters are charging.

Pricing higher will kill the dreams of those who want a quality book, but just can’t afford it.

Pricing is too high.

Yep, there is a flip side.

I’ve gotten queries from people who want to have a book written, but once they hear the price (the price that is too low for others), they can’t afford it.

But, getting back to the title question: Does price equate to quality?

NO! No, it doesn’t.

Over the years, I’ve ghosted 90+ children’s books and gotten excellent testimonials from those who don’t mind sharing that they used my services. And, I have repeat clients. I currently have three clients who have each hired me to write a series of books. And, one of my prior clients had interest from MADD based on a story I rewrote for her.

So, again, price does not equate to quality . . . at least not with some ghostwriters.

Sure, I can up my prices. But, again, those who can’t afford it wouldn’t be able to hire a quality writer.

I’ve written for people all over the world: Norway, Italy, Jordan, United Kingdom, Scotland, Saipan, United Arab Emirates, and many states within the United States. These people now have the satisfaction of being a ‘children’s author’ of a quality, publishable book they are proud to be author of. And, I’ve gotten to help them achieve that particular dream. That makes me smile.

How do you know who you’re hiring?

I know I said price doesn’t necessarily equal quality, but you do need to know who you’ll be working with. Here are a few tips to help you determine the quality of the writer:

1. Check out the ghostwriter’s testimonials, website, and blog.
2. See if the site and everything on it looks and sounds professional.
3. See if the blog posts give you an idea that the writer knows what she’s talking about.
4. You should also check out the About page. Learn who the writer is affiliated with and other tidbits of information.
5. Check the ghostwriter’s work.
6. Ask for samples of her or his writing.

Hot Tip: You should also do a Google search. That’s how most of my clients find me. Google goes for quality. They won’t put a ‘scam or shabby’ website in their results for a search query. This is a great test for quality, especially if the results (the link shown) isn’t a paid ad.

Summing it up.

As a writer for hire, there is no ‘magic’ pricing point. You have to charge what you and the clients who hire you are satisfied with.

Don’t always equate price with quality. While in some cases this does matter, it doesn’t always. Do some research into the children’s ghostwriter you’re thinking of working with. Using the tips I have just above, you should be able to determine if that writer knows her stuff.

MORE ON WRITING

What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors
Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S MANUSCRIPT / 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 book you’ll be proud of.

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

This article was updated January 2018.

Oct 26

Getting to Know Your Characters

Fiction Writing and CharactersI recently read a post about writing for children. It focused on the story’s characters.

Basically, the post advised to create and know your characters inside and out before beginning the story. In fact, it suggested that the author build the story around the characters once they were fully developed. While this is good advice, and many experienced authors recommend this technique, there are some authors who occasionally watch their characters unveil themselves right before their eyes.

The Seat of the Pants Writing Method

This is such an interesting method of writing. Your character introduces himself and gradually reveals bits and pieces, and blossoms as the story moves along.  I’m currently working on a middle grade science fiction manuscript that is using this style. I didn’t intentionally start the story this way…it just happened.

You do need to be careful with this method though, you may lose track of all the bits and pieces that make up the character. So, a good way to keep track of those quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features is to note them on a page or card as they become unveiled. You wouldn’t want your character to have brown eyes in one chapter and blue eyes in another – unless of course, it’s a science fiction or paranormal and part of the storyline.

Actually, in this particular story of mine I used the ‘seat-of-the-pants’ method of writing for the characters and the story. I had no idea what the story would be about until I began writing it. I’m about half finished with it, and I have no clue where it will go from the point it’s at now, but it’ll be interesting to find out.

It’s true that many authors prefer the outlined method of writing, and I actually do also. Although, it seems once in a while a story and the characters can lead the author through an entire manuscript without the benefit of a structured outline. I find this fascinating . . . watching characters evolve and a story unfold. It’s almost like magic…characters, a story, and even worlds appear from thin air. It is magic!

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors
Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips
Words and Children’s Writing Pitfalls to Watch Out For

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)

Oct 19

Plot and Your Story – Four Formats

Plot - Four FormatsPlot. As writers we’ve all heard of this literary term. But, what does it mean?

Well, plot is what gives the story a reason to be. It’s the ‘why’ as to the reason the story exists. Plot is what the story is about. And, if the plot is good, it will entertain and engage the reader. It can even change the reader’s life.

In children’s writing, these stories are usually based on external conflict and action. Think of Superman fighting his nemesis Lex Luther. Or, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. And, the conflict doesn’t have to come in the form a person. It can be battling a flood or a volcanic eruption, climbing Mount Everest, or training a crazy, peeing-all-over-the-place dog.

In his book, “Aspects of a Novel,” F.M. Forster said, “A plot demands intelligence and memory also.”

Examples of plot driven stories include:

Madame Bovary – though the plot, Emma is driven toward a tragic end.
Lolita – the plot holds the reader fascinated as Humbert delves helplessly into depravity.
Great Expectations – through the plot, the reader watches Pip live his life in pursuit of having Estella love him.

These stories hold the reader captive. They drive the reader to turn the pages, to find out what will happen to the characters.

According to Children’s Literature.com, there are four types of plot structure:

1. Dramatic or Progress – think of this format as a pyramid.

a. The protagonist starts out okay or is in the beginning of a dilemma – it may be physical or emotional. This is the setup.
b. The obstacles or conflict rise. As each obstacle is met and overcome, another one arises of increasing severity. This goes on to the climax – the top of the pyramid.
c. The climax is the final conflict and has the protagonist giving his all to achieve his goal. It’s win or lose time.
d. Then comes the closing or wrap up of the story. The story descends the other side of the pyramid to a satisfying conclusion.

This is your typical young children’s story structure.

Keep in mind that the scenarios don’t have to be heart stopping action or doom. They can be as simple as a moral dilemma, of doing right or wrong.

2. Episodic – think of this format as a long obstacle course of usually lower impact ups and downs in chronological order. Usually each chapter or section depicts related incidents and has its own conflict climax. The story is connected through the characters and/or the theme.

According to Story Mastery, episodic formats “work best when the writer wishes to explore the personalities of the characters, the nature of their existence, and the flavor of an era.”

3. Parallel – with this format, there are two or more plots. They can be linked by the characters and/or a common theme.

In a recent upper middle-grade book I ghosted, there were three plots connected through characters and the overall plot.

This format can be used for upper middle-grade and young adult stories.

4. Flashbacks – this format provides the reader with flashbacks throughout the story. It allows the writer to begin with an action scene and fill in the ‘why, what, and how’ in flashbacks.

While plot-driven stories are engaging, it’s the stories that combine a good plot with believable characters that the readers can connect to and ‘feel for’ that become memorable. It’s these stories that have the potential to be great.

References:

(1) http://www2.nkfust.edu.tw/~emchen/CLit/study_elements.htm
(2) http://www.storymastery.com/story/screenplay-structure-five-key-turning-points-successful-scripts/

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Become an Author – 5 Basic Rules
Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing
Critiques are Essential for Writers

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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)

Oct 08

Make Your Children’s Writing Website Focused – 3 Must-Haves, 6 Tips

Tips on optimizing your websiteIs your site on the mark?

As we get caught up in our writing careers sometimes it’s easy to forget to remain focused.

That’s a no-no! It’s important to present a focused brand and site.

Okay, so what are three website must-haves and six tips?

The Must-Haves

1. Create a website using your own name.

As a writer, whether you’re co-writing with someone or not, you need your own website. And, your main (hub) site should have your name in it. This will be your central site linking off to your other related sites.

As an example, my children’s writing site is: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Now, with this title I have two essential elements covered: (1) my name, (2) the site’s keyword.

The visitor and search engines can quickly determine what the site is about. This is super important for website ranking and authority. While there are a number of other areas that need your keyword for website optimization, the title is one of the top ones.

Note: In this case, when I say “title,” I mean the URL also. Your URL is an optimization tool. It gives the search engines more information the site.

So, using my site above, the URL is http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

My site’s title and its URL both have the always-important keywords in them. This is focus.

2. Include the niche you write in as part of your URL and website title.

This was touched on in number one above. If you write in only one niche, say children’s historical fantasy, you should have that keyword in the title of your site, as well as in the domain name. Then you can have one site to list all your books. Just be sure to create separate pages for each book.

Tip: It’s really a much better idea to create a separate website for each book, in addition to your central author site. It allows you to create multiple must-have pages for each book. See number 4 in the tips below.

HOT TIP: If your title is too long, it’s better to use the niche keyword, say ‘children’s historical fantasy,’ and omit your name. Unless you’re Eric Carle, or Kevin Henkes, or James Patterson, you’re name has no search engine value.

3. If you are branding yourself as a children’s writer, keep your site specific to writing for children.

I originally had a problem with this. I ventured into a number of writing arenas including content writing and online marketing. Instead of keeping those areas separate, I brought them into my children’s writing site.

So, why is this a mistake? Well, because of dilution of expertise.

If you’re branding yourself as a children’s writer, the focus of your site must be children’s writing. If you promote yourself as ‘doing this, that, and the other thing,’ you’ll become known as the ‘jack of all trades and master of none,’ – dilution of expertise.

TIP: If you’re also involved in other writing arenas as I am, create a separate sites for promoting yourself as an expert in those areas. You wouldn’t want to have your steamy romance books listed on your children’s writing site.

Remember, whatever your site’s niche is, keep it focused on that niche.

6 TIPS for a Better Website/Blog

1. Always have an about page on each of your sites, include a short bio and photo.

2. Always have an opt-in box (for your mailing list) readily visible on your sites.

3. Always make sure your visitors can easily find how to contact you – a contact page is a good idea.

4. Have a page for reviews of your books, excerpts of your books, testimonials, illustrations, awards, etc. You can also link to interviews others have done about you and your books. (This is where a separate site for each book comes in handy.)

5. Offer a resources and/or tools page. The visitor will appreciate this and hopefully share your site with others and link back to it.

6. Get a book trailer or video on your site. Mix it up. People love visuals.

Using these tips will help you create a focused and reader/search engine optimized children’s writing website.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

What Makes a Good Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven
Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors
Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S MANUSCRIPT / 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 @gmai . com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

 

Sep 28

Days End Lullaby Video Book Review

Children's bedtime storyThanks to Amy Robbins-Wilson, creator of Lullaby Link, Day’s End Lullaby is now in a video.

Amy did a Google search for “lullaby” and came upon my book. She contacted me and offered to include my book as a review video on her site. But, she didn’t stop there, she offered to create a video of the lullaby on YouTube!

Well, Amy kept her word and provided me with links to both the review video on her site, and the video of the lullaby on YouTube.
Please check out these two videos and let me know what you think:

Day’s End Lullaby Singing Book Review Video:
http://www.lullaby-link.com/days-end-lullaby.html

Day’s End Lullaby YouTube Video – Entire song sung by Amy Robbins-Wilson
CLICK HERE!

This children’s bedtime picture book has the sheet music to the lullaby included as an added feature at the back of the book.

You can get your own copy of “Day’s End Lullaby” at:
http://www.amazon.com/Days-End-Lullaby-Karen-Cioffi/dp/1419691570/ref=sr_1_1

Sep 21

What Makes a Good Fiction Story? Plot Driven vs. Character Driven

Fiction WritingStories can be plot driven or character driven, so which is the best formula to use when writing a story? Knowing a little about both methods should help in making a decision.

Plot Driven Story

A story’s plot moves the story forward, from point A to point B. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a straight line; in fact a course that twists and turns is much better. This type of plot creates movement and interest. It’s the twists and turns that will keep the forward momentum fresh, as well as creates anticipation. Anticipation will hold a reader’s attention.

The plot also provides reasons and explanations for the occurrences in the story, as well as offers conflict and obstacles that the protagonist must overcome to hopefully create growth. These elements create a connection with the reader. It entices the reader to keep turning the pages. Without a plot it is difficult to create growth and movement for the protagonist. It might be comparable to looking at a still photo. It might be a beautiful photo and may even conjure up emotions in the viewer, but how long do you think it would hold a reader’s attention?

Along with this, the plot molds the protagonist. It causes growth and movement in the character. Assume you have a timid woman who through circumstances, the plot, transforms into a brave, strong, forceful hero. Where would the story be without the events that lead this timid woman to move past herself and into a new existence?

Character Driven Story

On the other hand, a character driven story creates a bond between the protagonist and reader. It is the development and growth of the character, the character’s personal journey, which motivates the reader to connect. There doesn’t need to be twists and turns, or fire works. The reader becomes involved with the character and this is all the enticement the reader needs to keep reading.

In addition to this, the character works hand in hand with the plot to move the story forward. As the character begins her transformation the plot moves in the same direction.

In some instances, such as short stories, a character driven story can work amazingly well, such as in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. In cases such as this, the connection developed between the character and the reader can be more than enough to satisfy the reader. But, all in all, it seems to be the combined efforts of a well plotted and character driven story that works the best.

The Best of Both Worlds

According to science fiction and fantasy writer, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., “The best fiction should be an intertwined blend of character, plot, setting, and style.” I agree; all elements of a story working together create stories that will be remembered.

All the aspects of a story should complement each other, should move each other forward to a satisfying conclusion, and should draw the reader in. 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. As with all things in life balance is necessary, the same holds true when writing a story.

MORE ON WRITING FICTION

Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips
Become an Author – 5 Basic Rules
Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S MANUSCRIPT / 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 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).

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Sep 14

Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors

10 Self-Editing TipsYou’ve been working on your story for a while now and you think it’s just about done. It’s been critiqued numerous times and you revised it numerous times. Now, it’s time for editing. This entails proofreading and self-editing. You don’t want to short-change yourself on the last stretch, so get ready to put the final layers of polish on your manuscript.

While this article is geared toward children’s writers, it has information for just about all writers.

Here are 10 tips you can use to help fine-tune your children’s manuscript:

1. Check for Clarity

Check each sentence for clarity. It’s important to remember that you may know what you intend to convey, but your readers may not. It’d be a good idea to have someone else read the manuscript for you. This is where a good critique group comes in handy.

2. Check for “Telling” and lackluster sentences

Check each sentence for telling. While you will need some effective telling, you want to have more showing.

Example: Joe hit his head and was dazed.
Alternative: Joe banged his head against the tree. He wobbled a moment and fell to the ground.

Show, don’t tell. Use your imagination and picture your character going through motions—maybe he’s turning his lip up, or he’s cocking his head. Try to visualize it; this will help in showing rather than telling.

A good way to add more showing is to add more sensory details. Use the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) to create a living character; this will help breathe life into your story.

Example: Joe felt cold.
Alternative: A chill ran through Joe’s body.

Example: Joe was frightened.
Alternative: Joe’s breath stopped. Goosebumps made the hair on his arms stand at attention.

3. Watch for head hopping

Checking for head hopping is especially important for children’s writers since their stories should be told from the protagonist’s point of view or perspective.

If the story is being told from your main character’s point of view (POV) make sure it stays there.

If my POV character Joe is sad and wearing a frown, it wouldn’t be advisable to say: Noticing his sad face Fran immediately knew Joe was distraught. This is bringing Fran’s POV into the picture.

You might say: Joe knew Fran would immediately notice his despair; they were friends for so long.

Or, you can just use dialogue: “Joe, what’s wrong?”

4. Watch for story consistency, conflict, clarity, and flow

Checking for consistency, conflict, clarity, and flow is another must for all writers of fiction. If you’re a children’s writer it’s even more important. Children need a structured story that’s consistent. The story also needs to provide conflict and action to keep the child engaged, along with clarity to help with comprehension. It should also flow smoothly with one paragraph, chapter moving seamlessly into the next.

5. Use spell-check

Make sure you write with spell-check on or use your word processor’s spell-check when you’re finished with your manuscript. I like writing with it on.

Just be careful here because while spell-check will catch misspelled words it won’t catch words that are spelled correct, but are the incorrect word in regard to meaning.

Example: He was to tired.
Correct: He was too tired.

These words are called homonyms and spell-check will not catch them.

A homonym is a word that sounds like another word, but is spelled different and has a different meaning. Examples of homonyms are: hare/here/hair; bare/bear/; stationary/stationery; peek/peak; principle/principal; capital/capitol; compliments/complements; cite/site/sight.

6. Use the FIND function on your word processor

This is a great tool to check for “ly” words, “ing” words, weak verbs, and over used words such as “was.”

7. Watch for redundancy

Check the story for repeated phrasing and even paragraph beginnings. You don’t want several paragraphs in a row beginning with “the” or other repetitive wording. When editing your manuscript use the Find function in your word program and look for overused words.

Another aspect of redundancy is using unnecessary words.

Example: Sit down on the chair.
The word ‘down’ is redundant; ‘sit’ implies down.

Example: She whispered quietly.
The word ‘whispered’ is redundant.

8. Check for tight writing

In today’s market, tight writing is important—readers have a shorter attention span. So, get rid of unnecessary words and text.

Example: Joe had a really hard time lifting the very heavy and big trunk.
Alternative: Joe struggled to lift the huge trunk.

Also, watch for words such as “began” and “started.”

Example: He began to lift the trunk.
Alternative: He lifted the trunk.

9. Check for punctuation and grammar

There are a number of great books and even online articles that will help you learn proper punctuation and grammar. Two books that I use are: The Frugal Editor by Carolyn Howard Johnson and The Great Grammar Book by Marsha Sramek.

You can also do a Google search.

10. Take illustrations into account

When writing a picture book you need to allow for illustrations. Picture books are a marriage between content and illustrations—a 50/50 deal. So, watch for text that an illustration can handle. With picture books your content doesn’t have to describe every little detail—the illustrations will embellish the story.

Well, this completes the 10 tips, but please know that self-editing is a tricky business and this is not an all inclusive list. Even knowing all the obstacles to watch out for, self-editing is still tricky. It’s almost impossible for us writers to catch all our own errors; we’re much too close to our work. We know every nook and cranny of the story and that makes it difficult to read it in a fresh manner. Even if we think we’re reading every word, our mind is way ahead of us, that’s why it’s advisable to look into hiring an editor.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S MANUSCRIPT / 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 that 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)

MORE ON WRITING

Become an Author – 5 Basic Rules
Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips
Characters or Story – Which Comes First?

This article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2011/08/self-editing-10-tips-checklist-for.html