Jan 29

3 Steps to Querying Publishers and Agents

Writing for children.You’ve been slaving for months, maybe years, on your manuscript. You’ve read about belonging to a critique group to help you hone your work and took the advice to heart. You have also listened to the advice about submitting your manuscript to an editor after your critique group is done with it, and after you’ve meticulously self-edited it. Now, you’re ready to begin submissions.

While some authors choose to send queries to a publisher or an agent, there is no reason to choose, send queries off to both. But, there are a few steps you need to be aware of before you actually start submitting:

1. First Impressions

Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism. Yes, be professional. As with any business correspondence, do not use colored stationary, colored text, elaborate font, scented paper or envelope, or any other unprofessional features. You get one shot at making a first impression; don’t blow it on silly additions. And, don’t try to be cute or send a gift. Again, be professional.

2. Research

So, you understand you need to appear professional, but you also need to send your query to the right recipients. You can have the most professional looking query letter, but if you send a query to a romance publisher and you have written a children’s picture book, guess what? You’ll be out of luck.

Research for publishers and agents who work within the genre you write. There are services, such as WritersMarket (http://www.writersmarket.com/) that provide information on where and how to sell your articles or manuscripts. While these services may charge for the service, it is a worthwhile investment.

There are also books that offer the same information, such as Writer’s Market, and Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market. If you choose this option, you will need to get the new versions each year. Agents and publishers are changing staff all the time, new companies are popping up and others are closing down, you will need up-to-date information for your query submissions.

3. Content

In the February 2011 issue of the Writer, agent Betsy Lerner explained, “Editors and agents alike enjoy nothing more than being startled awake by a witty or moving letter.” They want to see something special and unique; this is where your pitch comes in.

While you may have taken heed and had your manuscript critiqued and looked at by an editor, you can do the same with your query letter.

You want to give the impression that you are intelligent, so your query letter must reflect that. Get it in the best shape possible, with a great hook, and then send it off to be critiqued.

Publishers and agents receive more queries than they can comfortably handle, so don’t give them a reason to simply reject yours because of unprofessionalism. Give your query and manuscript every possible opportunity for success.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Book Marketing – The Foundation
How to Write a Story
Traditional Publishing and the Author Platform – Be Realistic

Jan 22

Balance in Fiction Writing – The Major Elements

Writing elements needed for balanced writingThere are five major elements to a fiction story and it’s the combination of these elements that make the story complete, interesting, and considered good writing.  Too much of one or not enough of another can affect the readers ability to connect with the story. So, what are the major elements of a story?

The Major Elements of a Story

1.    Protagonist
2.    Setting
3.    Plot
4.    Point of view
5.    Theme

Let’s break them down:

The Protagonist: Introduce the main character. Using your imagination you can make him unique. He can have particular mannerisms or quirks, or even distinct physical attributes. You can also make him likeable or unsavory, but remember you will need the reader to be able to create a connection to him. It’s this connection that will prompt the reader to continue reading on. Your protagonist needs to be real…believable.

The Setting: This will establish the time and place the story takes place. The setting can create a feeling and mood – if you’re writing about swashbuckling pirates, your reader will be in a certain mind set. The same holds true for any other setting you choose. It will be intrinsic to the plot/conflict and will help establish vivid imagery for the reader.

The Plot: This is the meat of the story – the forward movement, the conflict or struggle that drives the protagonist toward his goal. This involves any danger, suspense, romance, or other reader grabbing occurrence. The conflict can be emotional (an internal struggle – a tormented soul) or physical (from an external/outside force – good against evil).

Point of View: This establishes whose point of view the story is being told. It’s important to make this clear. Even if you have two main characters, there needs to be one who is primary in order to keep clarity within the story.

The Theme: This establishes what is important to the story. It usually evolves along with the story and the protagonist’s progression. If Jesus is your protagonist, establishing and promoting Christianity might be the theme. It might be the story’s view on life and the people/characters the protagonist encounters. It is the idea the author wants the reader to take away with him/her.

Utilizing each of these elements can create a unique, fascinating, and memorable story.

Just like the ingredients in a cooking recipe, writing has its own set of ingredients that produce a wonderful end product. A pinch here, a dab there – you hold the unique recipe to your story.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

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How Do You Build a Successful Writing Career? (3 Tips)
Aim for Writing Success

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). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Jan 15

Create a Believable Protagonist with Realistic Characteristics

Create believable charactersIt’s noted that you should let the reader see your protagonist’s characteristics within the first few pages. This enables the reader to quickly identify with him. This connection will determine whether the reader turns the next page.

Unless you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, your protagonist will have ordinary strengths (possibly extraordinary, but within the realm of reality); he will also have weaknesses. These qualities need to be conveyed early on.

Here are 12 characteristics that may pertain to a protagonist or main character (MC):

1. Intelligent: Is your MC smart? If so how smart: is he a genius, did he finish college, does he gets all As in school?

2. Handy or Crafty: Maybe your MC isn’t great at academics, but is he handy, musically inclined, or crafty?

2. Arrogant: Does your character think he’s better or smarter than others?  Does he let others know it? If so, how?

3. Trustworthy: Is your MC the kind of individual that others feel they can trust?

4. Determined: Does your MC know what he wants and strives to obtain his goal?

5. Greedy: Is your MC the kind of person who wants everything he doesn’t have? Is he the type of person who wants much more than he actually needs? Does he make it obvious?

6. Dependable: Is your MC the kind of individual that others know they can count on?

7. Brave: Does your MC do what he has to even if he’s frightened? Is he known for his bravery?

8. Cowardly: Is your MC afraid of his own shadow? Does he try to avoid any kind of confrontation or adventure?

9. Caring: Does your MC demonstrate kind and caring qualities? Does his family and friends think of him as a caring individual?

10. Selfish: Does your MC think of only himself? Is he known for this unsavory quality?

11. Strong: Does your MC have great physical strength? Is he strong emotionally?

12. Weak: Is your MC weak either physically or emotionally or both?

These are just some of the characteristics you can give to your protagonist. There are many others though, such as: shrewd, cheap, a liar, a thief, a go getter, beautiful, awkward, loyal, kind, lazy, introvert, extrovert, and cruel.

It’s up to you as the creator to give your protagonist a set of characteristics that will allow him to connect to the reader – whether the reader loves him or hates him there must be a connection. This connection is what will cause the reader to keep turning the pages.

Be cautious though, if you are giving your protagonist unsavory qualities at the beginning, be sure to include at least one redeeming quality otherwise your audience may not find that connection and decide not to read on.

And, remember, you can always have the protagonist change characteristics through the momentum of the story. He can start out as a coward and through various occurrences within the story he can evolve into a hero, or whatever you choose. That’s the amazing thing about being a writer – you create something from nothing. You give your character breathe and dimension.

MORE WRITING FOR CHILDREN

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Let's talk about your children's writing project

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, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700.

Jan 08

Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center

Have focused writing goals.As a writer, you have to move forward to keep up with the onslaught of books and authors in the book publishing arena. And, you especially need to be sure you’re keeping in alignment with your writing goals. This means every now and then you need to stop to evaluate what your core goals are and if you’re actually heading in that direction.

Every marketer will tell you that the beginning of each year you need to create a list of core or major goals. It’s important to make your goals realistic and obtainable, and not to burden yourself with too many goals.

Three is a good number of writing goals, not too few, not too many. Then under each goal you can list a few tasks that will you will do on a daily or weekly basis to help you reach your objectives.

In addition to creating and typing your goals down in a document, they need to be printed and kept visible. It’s important to put them somewhere you’ll be sure to notice on a daily basis. You might put your list on your computer, inside your laptop case, on top of your daily planner, on the inside of a kitchen cabinet you open everyday.

You get the idea, your writing goals need to be visible each and every day. Not just visible though, they need to be read each and every day.

Why is it important to keep your writing goals front and center?

Here’s another question to help answer that question: Did you ever hear the expression, ‘Out of sight, out of mind?’

That’s your answer.

On January 1st of ‘any year,’ you may tell yourself, and maybe even write it down, that you will:

1. Write a minimum of five pages of your new book each week.
2. Effectively market your published books.
3. Submit articles to three paying magazines on a monthly basis.

Okay, that’s great. But, suppose it’s now July and you haven’t even written 10 pages of your new book, and you haven’t gone past the very basics of promoting your published books.

What happened to your writing goals?

Easy. You didn’t keep your goals list front and center, so you got sidetracked.

While you may have had the best of intentions on January 1st, without keeping those writing goals visible, it’s difficult to stay on course.

Maybe you decided to add the writing of unrelated ebooks to your workload. Maybe you decided to do book reviews and started a critique group of your own. Maybe you devoted too much time to social networking and your online groups.

These additions may not necessarily be a bad thing, but before you continue on, ask yourself three questions:

1. Are these additions to your workload moving you in the direction of your major writing goals?
2. Are they actually keeping you from attaining your goals?
3. Are they providing some kind of income?

If your answers to these questions are NO, YES, NO, then you need to step back, redirect your steps, and get back on track. If you keep your writing goals front and center, you’ll be amazed at how you automatically work toward achieving them.

And, interestingly, it seems once you have that focus, the universe somehow aligns itself with you and things start falling into place.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

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Submitting Queries – Be Specific and Professional

Jan 01

New Year Wishes and Gifts

New Year's Wishes

Today is the first day of the rest of your life and the beginning of a new year – make it all it can be!

Karen Cioffi, Children’s Ghostwriter

To show my appreciation to my readers and subscribers, here are two useful gifts to help you achieve your goals in the New Year! Just click the link:

Achieve Your Goals with 3 Must-Have Psychological Assets

A Simple System to Achieve Your Goals

Dec 30

2016 Coming to a Close – 2017 Just Before Us, Bright and Shiny

The new year brings amazing things . . .

The New Year brings amazing things: opportunity for a fresh start, renewed hope, possibilities, and even new beginnings.

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.”

Make 2017 a year of action rather than procrastination.

To end 2016 and latch onto 2017, Below are 11 quotes I love and find inspirational. Hope you do too.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”
~ Lyndon B. Johnson

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”  ~ Dale Carnegie

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~ Will Rogers

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
~ Christopher Columbus

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” ~ Stephen Covey

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” ~ Warren Buffet

“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~ C.S. Lewis

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John C. Maxwell

HOPE THESE QUOTES HELP YOU THROUGHOUT THE NEW YEAR!

Dec 18

Writers – 4 Powerful Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

Tips to overcome bad writing habitsHabits are pretty much who you are.

Are you a positive thinker? Are you ambitious? Do you work hard? Are you a compulsive cleaner? Do you procrastinate? Do you fear jumping in?

Some of the items above are traits, but they are also habits created – they reflect your actions and reactions. They are part of the things you do each and every day, consciously or subconsciously.

Have a habit you don’t like? Or, one that is getting in the way of your writing success?

Well, you’re in luck.

According to WebMD, you can break bad habits in three easy steps.

1. Analyze the habit you’d like (need) to break.

Maybe, you spend too much time on social media, even if it’s to work it. If you’re not getting the ROI on your efforts, you need to change things.

Maybe, you don’t get enough writing in.

That story that’s been on the back burner is still there. You keep saying you’re going to get to it, but you keep procrastinating.

Or, maybe you need to write two articles a week for your blog, but barely manage to write one. Not for a real lack of time, more because you’re not prioritizing your work.

Maybe, you’re not using video as much as you should in your content marketing, simply because it’s easier not to.

Figure out what it is – put it in front of you. This strategy may help you change things for the better.

2. Write it down.

Actually writing things down adds another element or layer to the consciousness of the habit.

Psychologist James Claiborn, PhD, and the co-author of The Habit Change Workbook, explains, “Write out a list of the pros and cons of this behavior and keep a record of when you do it. Measurement of anything tends to change it and makes people much more aware in the first place.” (1)

This is similar to number 1, in that it allows you to analyze the habit.

3. Put a temp in.

Once you realize the’ whens and whys’ of a habit you want to break, try substituting another action in its place.

Suppose you drink two cans of soda day. Substitute one of the cans for a cup of water or naturally flavored seltzer. Once that’s working well, substitute the other can of soda with something healthier.

Or, suppose you spend 2 hours a day on social media. Time yourself. Stop at one hour. Then jump into writing something, whether it’s your story or a blog post.

4. Realize it may take a bit of time to break a habit.

This tip isn’t from WebMD, but it’s powerful.

According to Mark Twain, “A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”

I love this quote. In one sentence, it lets you know that habits can be broken, but it won’t be overnight. You need to persevere.

All of us have some habits we know we should overcome. Try these three tips and see if you can’t break at least one of your bad habits.

Source:
(1) http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/3-easy-steps-to-breaking-bad-habits

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Traditional Publishing and the Author Platform – Be Realistic
Writing to Get Published – 5 Power Tips
The Writing Elements Mix – Is There a Right Balance?

Dec 11

6 Tips to Make the Most Out of Writing Workshops

Getting the most out of writing workshopsGuest post by writing coach Suzanne Lieurance

Six Simple Ways to Make the Most of Any Writing Workshop or Writing Class

If you’ve recently signed up for a writing workshop or writing class, in the hopes of becoming a better writer, then follow these simple steps to make the most of that experience:

1) Read! Read! Read!

Before the very first class or workshop, survey ALL the class materials so you will get an idea of what to expect.

Most good writing classes (and workshops) will provide students with a wealth of helpful materials. But these materials won’t do you any good if you don’t bother to look at them. In fact, if you have time before the workshop starts, read as many of the materials as you can. You might not fully understand what you are reading. That’s okay. Learning is recursive – which means your understanding will increase each time you study or reread the information.

If you don’t have time to read the materials before the class begins, then at least look over all the materials beforehand. Also, besides the required course materials, if there are suggested additional materials, get those too. And read them!

Also, read the kinds of things you wish to write. If you want to write stories for children, READ stories for children. If you want to write culinary mysteries for adults, READ culinary mysteries for adults, etc.

SPECIAL NOTE: Also, realize this. If you don’t enjoy reading, then you probably won’t enjoy the work it takes to become a successful (by that I mean, published) writer. Published writers are like sponges – anxious to soak up any information about their craft that they can.

2) Carefully read the directions for each and every assignment and follow the directions TO THE LETTER.

I’m surprised that so many people pay for a writing course (like the one I taught for the Institute of Children’s Literature), yet a large number of these people don’t follow the directions for each assignment.

In some cases, it’s painfully evident that they didn’t even bother to READ the directions. What they need to understand is this – usually each assignment or lesson in a writing course or workshop was designed with specific objectives in mind. If the student doesn’t bother to read and follow the directions for each assignment, then the instructor has little chance of helping the student meet those objectives.

3) Avoid defending your work to your instructor.

Generally, students pay an instructor because he (or she) has some expertise and experience in writing, which usually includes many publishing credits. In fact, you should ALWAYS look for an instructor who has publishing credits. But then listen to what that instructor has to say about your writing, then follow his advice without trying to defend your work if it goes against what he has suggested.

Your instructor knows what he is talking about. For example, many times I tell students that in stories for children, adults should play very minor roles, and the child or teen in the story should always solve his own problem without a parent or other well-meaning adult stepping in to save the day. Many students want to argue that adults save the day for kids all the time in real life, so it should be okay that Aunt Martha calling at the last minute to offer little Janie the money she needs for summer camp is the perfect resolution for their story.

Sure, this kind of thing happens in real life. But, in stories for kids or teens, editors want the child to solve his own problem. Don’t waste precious time (yours or the instructor’s) arguing about something like this. Your understanding of WHY you should do what your instructor is asking you to do (or not do) will increase over time and study. Do what your instructor suggests, without defending your reason for going against his directions, and you’ll move ahead at a faster pace.

4) Learn to research all sorts of topics. In other words.

Don’t depend on instructors, editors, publishers, or anyone else to provide you with ALL the information you need in order to become a published writer.

Your instructor will probably give you research tips and marketing information, of course. But most published writers are self-directed learners. By that I mean, when they don’t KNOW something, they figure out HOW and WHERE to get the needed information themselves (more about how to do this, next).

5) Find other writers to network with and even hang out with, and read publications for writers.

Join a local writers’ group or at least sign up for one online (at yahoogroups.com you’ll find all sorts of groups for writers). Try to find a group that includes at least a few published writers. Generally, writers like to be helpful. They will usually share marketing tips, writing resources, etc. and will help you to more fully understand what you learn in a writing workshop or writing class.

Also, talk to some of the other writers in these groups to find out how they write. Then use some of their tips to improve your own writing, writing habits, etc. Hang out with the published writers and you’ll soon learn that they probably do a LOT of rewriting before they sell any of their work.

Read publications for writers to gain current marketing news and tips, and to find out how other writers became successful.

All these things will help give you the confidence to keep writing (and to keep practicing what you learn in your writing workshop or writing course) until you manage to get something published.

6) Don’t expect writing to be easy.

And, don’t assume that if it isn’t it must mean you don’t have enough talent to succeed as a writer, so you might as well drop out of the workshop or writing class.

Actually, most successful writers will tell you that talent isn’t the most important quality for success. The ability to follow directions (which will eventually come from an editor or editors) and the willingness to continue writing and rewriting, until at least some of the many rejection letters you get in the mail turn into acceptance letters, are much more important qualities for success as a writer. If you realize this BEFORE you start any writing workshop or writing course, you will be more likely to stick with it, even when the work gets difficult.

Suzanne Lieurance is an award-winning author and an experienced writing coach. 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-wfc2

The Writing Elements Mix – Is There a Right Balance?
Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More
Submitting Queries – Be Specific and Professional

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, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700