Nov 26

Making a Fiction Story Work – 5 Key Elements

Tips to writing fictionThink about the last time you read a story that stayed with you. A story that made you feel. A story that took you on an adventure or had you sitting on the edge of your seat. A story that made you cry or laugh . . . or think.

These types of stories have it. They have the key to making a story work.

So, how do you go about creating a stirring story?

Here are 5 top tips to writing a fiction story that works:

1. It’s got to have conflict.

All writers have heard this and the reason is because it’s true.

Your protagonist MUST be striving for something, and it should be something significant. She needs to have obstacles in her way that she has to overcome in order for the reader to be engaged enough to turn the page.

The reader has to be pulled into the story wondering if, and more so hoping that, the protagonist reaches her goal.

You wouldn’t have much of a story following a couple in an amusement park going from ride to ride, waiting on line for food, and so on. There’s nothing for the reader to get involved with. There’s no emotional element.

Or, what if a great writer puts two children in a story that takes place at the Bronx Zoo. The narrator describes in detail all the exhibits they visit and does it wonderfully. But, what does the reader have to sink her teeth into. Nothing.

One of my all-time favorite movies was Thelma and Louise. The conflict was never-ending. And, it was the conflict that keep you on the edge of your seat.

How would they get out of the mess they were in?!

That’s how you want your readers to feel. There needs to be conflict in order to make the reader feel. It doesn’t have to be ‘seat of your pants’ drama, but it needs to be significant. It can be external or internal, but it has to be something the reader can grab and hang on to. It has to make the reader get involved with the story and care about it.

2. The readers need to be invested in the story.

A good story brings the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. This is what will motivate the reader to like and root for the protagonist.

It’s all about making the reader ‘feel.’ The story has to evoke emotion on the reader’s part. The story has to have substance.

Going back to Thelma and Louise, one wrong decision spiraled out of control into what seemed to them as a live or die situation.

Circumstances and choices took them bounding out-of-control, as if caught up in a tornado. This kind of story creates investment.

It evoked emotion in just about everyone who saw the movie. Everyone was rooting for the protagonists.

In an article, “Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters,” the author calls this key factor, “transportation.” You’re bringing the reader out of their reality and into your story world. You’re transporting them.

Like Alice when she steps into the rabbit hole. Down, down, down she went into another world.

3. The characters have to act ‘real’ and be likeable.

Your characters need to be multifaceted. They need to behave like real people. This means they’ll have good traits, but they’ll also have some bad traits or weaknesses. It may be they’re indecisive. Or, at the beginning of the story they may be frightened of everything.

Your characters should make great decisions, but they should also make poor ones.

Along with this, your protagonist needs to be likeable. He needs to have traits that the reader will admire and connect to. It’s important that the reader likes the protagonist.

Maybe your protagonist will be honest, heroic, responsible, generous, or loyal.

You get the idea. These are characteristics that most people admire in others. They’re characteristics that will draw the reader in.

I forgot what movie it was and I forgot the exact details, but basically the protagonist was sitting in a diner across from her date. Another woman, elegantly dressed, walked passed with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe. The toilet paper woman was heading to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The protagonist excused herself for a moment. She got up and removed the paper from the woman’s foot by walking behind her and stepping on the paper. Then she sat back down and returned to her conversation.

The woman that passed by never knew the kindness the protagonist showed her. And, the protagonist didn’t mention what she did to her date.

This one simple act of kindness spoke volumes about the character of the protagonist. She’s the type of person you’d admire and like to be friends with.

4. The protagonist needs to have some heroic qualities.

At some point in the story, the protagonist needs to step up. This can be in several small incidents that she overcomes throughout the story. Or, it can be in one climatic incident that wraps the story up.

In general, and especially in children’s stories, the protagonist needs to take action and reach her goal.

It may be after one or two or three failures, but ultimately, the protagonist must step up. Whether it’s physical or emotional, whether internal or external, she needs to fight through all obstacles that stand in her way.

Readers want a purposeful story. They want and even expect the protagonist to be victorious. Don’t let your readers down.

5. Tie-up all loose ends.

When you’re getting to the end of your story, make sure all loose ends are tied up. Any tidbits of information you put out there must be resolved.

You want the reader to go away satisfied. You don’t want her wondering why something was mentioned somewhere in the story and not resolved.

One example is mentioning that the protagonist’s close friend lost his dog. Then there’s no mention of it. Was the dog found?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG?

Another example is in a middle-grade manuscript I just read. The author had the friend of the protagonist saying he couldn’t go to the protagonist’s special event because he had something URGENT to do that day.

Afterward there was no mention of the urgent matter.

This is a NO-NO. What was so urgent? Why was it mentioned, if it wasn’t followed up with?

As I read the manuscript I knew that part would either have to be addressed (tied-up) or eliminated.

These loose-ends are things that will gnaw at the reader. They will leave the end feeling like something is missing. Again, this is a NO-NO.

So, there you have it.

While there is more involved in writing good fiction, these five are at the top of the ‘good fiction story’ list.

Sources:
Connect Characters
https://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/wonder/ch1.html (Sorry, this link is no longer working)

THINKING OF WRITING YOUR OWN CHILDREN’S STORY?

Check out my 180 page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Learn to write for children

 

Nov 19

SCBWI Book Critique Boutique

I’m excited to announce that on December 10th, I’ll be at Touro College in Bayshore, Long Island selling books and giving 10 minute critiques for ONLY $10!

Get a critique of your manuscript

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is having it’s first ever (as far as I know) Book Critique Boutique.

If you’re in the area and you’re a children’s author or illustrator, stop on by.  I look forward to seeing you!

Children's Author

Is Your Protagonist Multi-Dimensional?

Image

Is your character fully dimensional?Does your protagonist have one, two, or three dimensions?

Between your characters and the plot, you develop a story. If the mix is right, and the characters are believable, you can create a story worthy of publication.

While there are many articles about creating believable characters, it’s an important topic and reminders are always in order since your characters are a crucial aspect of your story.

So, which is your protagonist?

1. Is your protagonist flat…lacks any type of emotion and action. Like the simple and safe kiddy rides at a children’s amusement park…the carousel horse that goes round and round, but does nothing else? Then you have a one- dimensional character on your hands.

2. Is your protagonist a little bumpy…he has some quirks, life and emotion, but no real depth of character or history. Like the carousel horse that goes round and round and up and down at a steady easy pace? Then you have a two-dimensional character struggling to break into the world of believability.

3. Is your protagonist a full-blown amusement park…a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, knowledge, emotion, character, quirks…life and history? Now you have it—you have a believable three-dimensional character that is strong enough to bring your story through to the end.

Now the question is: how do you create a wonderful, believable life-like three-dimensional character?

There are a number of methods you can use that will help create a believable character, here are two:

1. Create a character sheet or use an index card before you begin.

On your sheet, list all the characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, physical attributes, artistic attributes…you get the idea. Keep this sheet handy as you’re writing your story. If you tell the reader Pete has blonde hair in the beginning of the story, and then you describe it as black, unless he dyed his hair as part of the storyline, stay true to the character. Readers pick up on errors very quickly.

The more detail you add to your character sheet the easier it will be to know what your protagonist will do in any given circumstance. This will take the element of wondering out of your writing process and save time…Pete finds a bag of money next to his neighbor’s car. Hmm . . . will he keep it or try to find out if it’s his neighbor’s? Oh, wait a minute, on your character sheet you wrote he’s an honest guy! Simple.

2. Add characteristics and attributes to your protagonist as you write your story.

Write your protagonist’s characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on, on a character sheet as your story evolves.

There are some writers who use different methods to create a story. Maybe you’re using the ‘seat-of-the-pants-method’ and your character evolves as your story does. With this method, you want to be sure to note each new development in your protagonist’s character or being.

Let’s go back to Pete again. Pete scratches a car with his bicycle. Does he leave a note on the car he damaged? Does he quickly leave the scene? Does he just go about his business, ignoring the incident?

While he’s usually honest, he could have a moment of weakness? Maybe he’s afraid of the consequences.

Whichever one of these actions he chooses will establish another element to his character – be sure to make note of it.

No matter what process you use, remember to add life-like qualities to your character. Readers need to develop a relationship with the protagonist. If they feel Pete is three dimensional and they are drawn to him, they’ll be sure to read to the end of your book.

Let's talk about your children's writing projectWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Articles on writing for childrenhttp://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2016/04/24/the-one-sentence-pitch-for-your-manuscript/

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

8 Top Fiction Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Oct 01

Children’s Writing – Creating your Main Character Part2

Writing great charactersThis is Part2 of an article about creating your protagonist. Well, not just creating him, it’s about creating a powerful and memorable main character (MC). And, it’s based on an article I read at Jerry Jenkins, author of 186 books.

Part one discussed:

– Naming your character
– Making him quickly visible
– Let the reader be able to picture him
– Give him a backstory
– Making him realistic
– Making him heroic

You can check out Part1 HERE.

Now on to tips 7-11 for creating your MC.

7. The reader needs to see inside.

This strategy helps the reader connect to the MC. It helps the reader create a bond. It makes him want to turn the page and root for the character.

A great way to do this, in part and especially with children’s writing, is to let the reader see the MC’s thoughts. I do this with italics.

Here’s an example from “Walking Through Walls”:

I will be rich once I am an Eternal. I will have servants to toil in the land I own. Anything I want I will just get. Who can stop me?

It’s kind of like having the character whisper in the reader’s ear. The reader is privy to what’s going on inside the MC. His hopes, his fears, his anger, his happiness . . . his emotions.

This is powerful.

Another great tool for this is writing in first person.

Take a look at the first chapter, first paragraph of “The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker:

“I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot. But when my teacher said, ‘Class, we have an exciting project to talk about,’ I listened anyway.”

What a great first paragraph. What kid wouldn’t relate to that.

8. Make your characters a bit like you.

For this strategy, weave your experiences into the development of your MC.

You may not think you have anything in common with your MC. Or, you may think none of your experiences are relevant, but you’d be surprised. Your wants and fears and all the other emotions you have can easily make their way into your character. Even if the character is a different gender than you.

And, this can come in handy when you’re stuck for a reaction or even motions from your character.

In one scene in Walking Through Walls, the MC was drooling over some delicacies he saw but couldn’t have. I had to picture myself in the scene and think of what I’d do.

Would my eyes grow wide? Would my mouth hang open? Would I actually drool?

Other times, you might be stuck on how your character will move or use his hands. Again, you’ve got to step into his shoes. Act out how you’d move in a similar situation.

Would you wave your hands? Would your eyes blink quickly? Would you glare? Would you smile, laugh, or cry? Would you form a fist? Would you throw your hands out wide? Would you shove your hands in your pockets?

Finding these answers and using them in your story will be bits of you woven into your character.

9. The character arc.

The character arc is super important with writing for children.

Your story starts with the child having a problem. He tries and tries to overcome it. As he struggles to get past, over, under, around of through the problem, he grows and changes in some way.

“The Talented Clementine,” is a perfect example of the character arc.

There was a talent show going on and Clementine wanted to be good enough at something to be in it. But, she didn’t believe she had any talents. She tried to get out of it, she tried to find something she was good at. Everything failed. Finally, at the end, her principal needed her help directing the show and Clementine did an amazing job. She found her talent.

10. You’ve got to ‘show’ your story and your characters.

While you want the reader to know all about your MC, you don’t want to tell the reader.

Everything your character does will convey what he’s about. How he acts. How he reacts to situations. How he talks. How he moves. These all show what the character is about. And, adding his thoughts here and there helps too.

Here’s an example from “The Chocolate Touch” by Margot Apple:

“At last he came to a small central ball of cotton batting, and there right in the middle, was a little golden ball. He picked at the ball with his fingernail and peeled away the gold paper. . .”

It could have read: John opened the box and ate the chocolate. Instead, the author shows the reader exactly what John is doing. You can feel the character’s anticipation. This is showing.

11. Research, if needed.

Jenkins says, “Resist the temptation to write about something you haven’t experienced before conducting thorough research. Imagination can take you only so far.”

It’s a sure bet that I did lots and lots of research writing Walking Through Walls. Set in 16th century China, my imagination could take me only so far. And, it’s essential when writing in a specific time period that you get it right. You want the flavor of the time. You want the authenticity.

But, I also do research for lots of my children’s ghostwriting clients. I may be writing a fiction story about a horse or a pig and I want to know what their real characteristics are so I can incorporate them into the stories.

Or, maybe it’s a story about a boy with asthma or a girl learning to swim. Getting the details right matters.

Summing it up.

There are at least 11 elements to writing a great character, a memorable character, the first of which is to give him the right name. Use all the tricks of the trade when writing your characters to ensure their engaging, connectable, and memorable.

Do you have your own strategies to write a great character? I’d love for you to share with us.

Reference:
10 Tips to Developing Your Characters

Articles on writing for children

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Be a Successful Writer Even if You Don’t Think You Have Enough Time

Writing Picture Books for Young Children – A Different Writing Style

Children's ghostwriterLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book 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). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Sep 24

Children’s Writing – Creating Your Main Character Part1

Write Memorable CharactersI read an excellent article by Jerry Jenkins who is an author of more than 186 books and a New York Times bestselling novelist. This is a writer who knows about writing.

The article was about creating memorable heroes.

Every author wants to be able to do this. So, below are the first few tips Jenkins offered (I put my own spin on these tips and made them relevant to children’s writing. And, since it’s a long post, I divided it into two-parts):

1. Name him right.

A name isn’t just a name. Giving your main character (MC) the right name matters.

I’ll use my middle-grade fantasy book, “Walking Through Walls”, as an example.

The story is set in 16th century China.

What names come to mind?

Harry, Shawn, Dale, Justin, Juan, Saheb? I don’t think so.

If you want to keep the flavor of the story true, you’ll need to use appropriate names. The MC in “Walking Through Walls” is Wang.

2. Get him out there.

You’ve got to get your MC out there in front of the audience right away.

You don’t want any confusion as to the MC. You want your reader to make a connection quick. The MC should be the first character introduced in the story.

This is especially true with young children’s books.

3. The reader should be able to picture the main character.

This may not be relevant if you’re writing a children’s picture book or even a chapter book as most of them have illustrations. But, if you’re writing a middle grade, you most likely will need to describe your MC somewhat.

Just give enough information for the reader to be able to imagine what your MC looks like.

Is he tall? Is she fair or dark? Is she thin? Does he have any unusual characteristics?

You want the reader to be able to picture him – to create her own image of him. Whatever information you leave out, the reader will fill in.

4. He’s got to have a backstory.

Okay, this isn’t relevant to picture books as they’re too short for backstory. But, with other stories, the MC needs to be realistic and this means he needs a life.

Using “Walking Through Walls” again, it’s quickly revealed that Wang has a father, mother, and sister. It’s also quickly revealed that he’s a dreamer and doesn’t like to work. And, he wants the fast track to fame and fortune.

This was done within the first couple of pages.

Other aspects of your character that might be conveyed are:

– Is he smart?
– Is he an athlete?
– Does he have lots of friends?
– What are his innate qualities?
– Is he a follower or a leader?
– What are his goals?
– What are his hobbies?
– What makes him happy, mad.
– What he’s afraid of.
– Is he outgoing or shy?
– What’s his family life like?

The list can go on and on. Use the qualities or characteristics that are relevant to your story.

5. Make him realistic.

I wrote an article a few years ago about your character being one, two, or three dimensional.

You need a three-dimensional character.

He needs good qualities, bad qualities, things he’s good at, things he not good at, and so on and so on. You need a character who is life-like.

Along with this, he needs a mutli-faceted personality. What I mean by this is, a boy will act differently with his brother, his friend, a girl he’s sweet on, his teacher, his coach, his mom, his dad, and so on.

Our personalities are able to adapt to the interactions we have. You don’t want a MC who acts the same with all secondary characters and in all situations. He needs to portray realistic feelings and reactions.

6. He’s got to be heroic.

While your MC needs to be human / flawed, he also must learn from his failures . . . from overcoming the obstacles thrown in his way.

I love the way Jennings put this, “While striving to make your main character real and human, be sure to also make him heroic or implant within him at least the potential to be heroic.”

When writing for children, especially young children, the MC must prevail. He needs to overcome his obstacles and end up smarter, stronger, wiser, happier. Whatever the growth is, it’s got to be there.

Going back to Wang, while he’s kind of a slacker, he feels a need to help his friend even though it would mean fighting against warriors. There’s more to the story to make him heroic, but just wanting to help a friend in need is enough.

To read part 2, click the link:
Children’s Writing – Creating your Main Character P2

Reference:
10 Tips to Developing Your Characters

BEEN THINKING ABOUT WRITING YOUR OWN CHILDREN’S BOOK?
Check out FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Write your own children's bookMORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Writing Fiction for Children – 4 Simple Tips

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

The One Sentence Pitch for Your Manuscript

 

Sep 03

Writing Picture Books for Young Children – A Different Writing Style

Writing Style and Picture BooksA writing style is the way a writer writes a story. It’s the words used, sentence structure, tone used, and even the method used.

The children’s picture book writing style is unique for two main reasons:

1. You’re dealing with young children.
2. You’re often dealing with parents and teachers who will read the story to young children.

Let’s break the reasons down.

1. Simple words, simple sentences, simple ideas.

When writing for children you must remember you’re writing for children.

It may sound silly, but it’s easy forget this and end up writing for yourself. Always remember your audience will be young children.

Reason one is broken into two categories:

A. Your sentences are too long and complex for the young reader. Or, the words you’re using are too advanced for the young reader.

I’ve been guilty of this one. I’ll write the story using longer sentences than I should and using words that are too advanced for the target reader. This is a no-no.

Children, especially young children need things kept simple: simple words, simple sentence structure and length, and simple story line.

As a simple (and exaggerated) example:

BAD: Freddie couldn’t comprehend the complexity of the situation.

BETTER: Freddie didn’t understand.

The ‘better’ example above reduces the length of the sentence and simplifies it also. Children will quickly understand what’s being said. And, if parents/teachers are involved, they won’t be stumbling over a complex sentence.

Simple is better with young children.

There’s a great book to help with the use of age appropriate words when writing for children, “The Children’s Writer’s Word Book” by Alijandra and Tayopa Mogilner.

B. In addition to simple words and simple sentences, you need to think about the scenarios you’re creating. You don’t want to give young children bad or dangerous ideas, like sneaking out at night, or running away from parents when in an amusement park, or running into the street.

This doesn’t pertain to young adults and even some upper middle grade. In these genres, the reader is able to grasp just about as much as an adult.

But, for picture books you need to keep it on the simpler side.

2. Parents and teachers may be involved.

Parents and teachers often read picture books to children. You certainly don’t want them stumbling over long sentences. And, their audience is very young children who will usually have very short attention spans.

Think of a one or two-year-old who can’t get away fast enough or who’s squirming all over his mom trying to grab the teddy bear that’s sitting on the shelf.

Next, think of the kids in pre-school and kindergarten. Granted they have a better attention span than the toddler, but not by much.

Make the picture book kid-friendly. Simple words, simple sentences, and simple story line.

You also need to consider the parent who is reading their child a bedtime story. Make the story flow. Keep it simple. Make it engage the reader as well as their audience.

How to test your story.

To help get a handle on your story, to help determine if it’s simple enough, Mary Kole from Kidlit advises to read the story out loud. It’s so much different than just reading it. (1)

Reading aloud, you won’t just glaze over the words, you’ll have to read each one to say them. You’ll get a better sense of how it sounds and flows.

An even better test, if possible, have someone read it out loud for you. Maybe a family member or friend or critique partner. This is even better than reading it yourself because that person won’t be familiar with the story. You’ll be able to catch all the snags in the story that can cause pausing or stumbling.

(1) Picture Book Writing Style

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book 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). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Articles on writing for children

Writing With Clarity
5 Top Fiction Writing No-Nos
The Writing Elements Mix – Is There a Right Balance?

Jun 25

Storytelling vs. Writing a Story

Writing tips and strategiesIs there a difference between storytelling and writing a story?

Yes, there is.

A children’s publisher commented on the difference between storytelling and writing. She explained that storytelling involves visual aids, whereas writing does not.

Granted, children’s picture books do provide illustrations in the form of visual aids, but they are not the same as storytelling’s visual aids.

Storytelling

Storytelling allows for the use of visual aids, which includes facial expressions. There is also voice tone, word pronunciation, along with word or phrase stressing that help aid in conveying sadness, anger, fear, and an array of other emotional sediments. This is also known as voice inflection.

Along with facial expressions and voice inflection, the storyteller can also take advantage of movement. Imagine telling a group of children a spooky story that has the protagonist tiptoeing around a corner to see what’s there. As a storyteller you can actually tiptoe, hunched over; and exaggerating the movement enhances the suspense. Visual aids are easy to use and are powerhouses of expressions.

Another example might be if you are telling a pirate story to a young boy. You can use toy props, such as a toy sword or pirate’s hat, while limping with a pretend wooden leg. These visuals enhance the story experience for the child without the storyteller having to create the imagery with words.

Writing a Story

Writing on the other hand depends solely on the writer’s interpretation of what the facial expressions, voice, mannerisms, image, and body movement of the characters might be. And, that interpretation must be conveyed through words that preferably ‘show’ rather than ‘tell.’

If you think about it, storytelling is much easier than writing a story. But, most of us authors are writers, not storytellers, and as writers we need to convey emotions and activity through showing.

In the storytelling examples above, how might you write the scene as an author?

For the first scenario of a spooky story, one example might be:

Lucas grabbed his little brother’s hand and pulled him close. “Shhh. Don’t make any noise. It might hear us.” They crept along the wall, barely breathing, until they reached the . . .

While this passage doesn’t have the advantage of the storyteller’s visual aids, it does convey a feeling of suspense and fear.

In regard to a pirate story, as an author you might write:

Captain Sebastian grabbed his sword and heaved it above his head. “Take the ship, men.”

The pirates seized the ropes and swung onto the ship. Swords and knives clanking, they overtook their enemy in under an hour.

This short passage clearly conveys a pirate scene with Captain Sebastian leading his men into a battle aboard another ship. No visual aids, but it does get its message across.

You might also note that while trying to write your story through showing, you need to watch for weak verbs, adjectives, and a host of other no-nos. In the sentence above, the words, “barely breathing” would probably need to be changed if it reached a publisher’s hands. Why? Because “ly” and “ing” words are also frowned upon.

So, knowing the difference, if you had your choice, which would you prefer to be, a storyteller or a writer?

I’d be a writer!

Writing for children tips

The Author Website – Do You Really Need One?
Picture Books – Story or Illustrations, Which Comes First?
Writing – Showing vs. Telling

WANT TO BE A CHILDREN’S WRITER?

Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 180 page ebook that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN (finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books)

Writing Children's Fiction

Jun 11

Ghostwriting Children’s Books – 5 Ways to Know if You’re Any Good

Chidlren's ghostwriterSome writers can at times wonder if they’re ‘good enough’. Are they fulfilling their clients’ expectations? They may occasionally doubt their writing skills and ability. I think it goes with the territory.

They may take on a project they’ve never done before. Yep, doubts surface.

They see peers getting credits from major magazines or getting book after book traditionally published. Yep doubts will undoubtable surface.

Hey, writers are human, right?

But what about ghostwriting. You’re not submitting traditionally yourself, so you don’t have the rejection or acceptance feedback.

So how do you know if you’re good at being a children’s ghostwriter or other type of ghostwriter?

Well, there are at least five telltale signs.

1. The proof is in the pudding, right?

This is a perfect analogy for whether you’re good at what you do.

One clear way to tell if you’re effective at what you do is by the reactions of your clients.

Are your clients unhappy? Are they satisfied? Are they pleased? Are they happy? Are they overjoyed? Are they thrilled to tears?

Now, not all clients may cry at the masterpiece you create, but you want every one of your clients to be ‘very happy to overjoyed’ at the very least.

You can tell if you’re successful by how your clients react to the finished product.

2. Do any of your clients come back (repeat clients)?

It’s true that because of the expense of having a book ghosted, not all clients can afford to hire-out more than one book. But, have you had any clients request a second project with you?

If you have, you can be assured you’re doing something right.

3. Do you have clients with a series?

This is kind of like #2 above, but it’s an even stronger indication that you’re producing the goods.

Clients who invest in a series with you believe in you and your ability. If they didn’t love what you created with Book One, they would never move forward in a series project. So, if you’re looking for a Ghostwriting Stamp of Approval, this is it.

4. Are you getting testimonials?

I’m adding this here, but it not necessarily a clear indication of your qualifications. The reason is most ghosting clients don’t want to share that they’ve hired a ghostwriter.

If you’re fortunate to get some testimonials, that’s fantastic. The reason is because it’s not only personal validation of your qualifications, it’s public validation.

Testimonials are also a great marketing tool. People are influenced by what others think of your work.

5. Have any of your clients traditionally published? Have they won awards?

This is the icing on the cake.

Have any of your clients submitted to traditional publishers and agents? If so, have they gotten a contract?

As a ghostwriter you cannot use this as a promotional tool, but it definitely is another personal stamp of approval.

So, if you’re wondering if you’ve got the stuff to be a children’s ghostwriter, use these five questions to put your mind at ease.

Articles on writing for childrenChildren’s Writing and Publishing Process – The Traditional Path
Children, the Environment, and Story Telling
Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional

Let's talk about your children's writing projectLet 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). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

May 21

Picture Books – Story or Illustrations, Which Comes First?

Picture books While most authors know the answer to the title question, which comes first in picture books, the story or the illustrations, some newbies don’t.

I have a client with a three-book series. This client happens to be an amazing artist and created her story around her illustrations.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll say she visited the pyramids in Egypt.

Being an artist, she wants her readers to SEE everything she saw. She wants to incorporate as many tidbits of information about her journey into the story . . . and she wants to do it visually.

This can be great, but when you’re writing a fiction book, it’s ALL about the story. The illustrations complement the story. The illustrations enhance the story. It’s not the other way around.

It’s got to be valuable to the story to be in it.

It’s not a good idea to write text in fiction writing just to include scenery, characters, or information you want the reader to be aware of. If they’re not valuable to the story . . . if they don’t move the story forward they shouldn’t be in the story.

This is especially true with picture books, even if you’re self-publishing. You may feel you have leeway, but if you want a quality book that you’ll be proud to be the author of, you need to follow the rules of writing for children.

Your story should begin with a problem the protagonist needs to overcome. You can’t have one or two spreads of unnecessary fluff introducing and describing the characters as well as setting up backstory.

You need to quickly get the reader to care about the protagonist. You need to grab the reader and get her involved. The reader needs to quickly understand what the problem is and be motivated to see how the protagonist works to overcome it or solve it.

A story I read . . .

I recently read a manuscript and the first three spreads were written just to give information and bring irrelevant characters into the story just for the sake of bringing them back from the prior book.

While there were two exciting elements in the middle of the story, it wasn’t enough to carry the story as the last two spreads were also fluff written to ensure the reader knows exactly what the author wants him to know to wrap up the story.

Readers read between the lines, even young readers. You don’t need to spell everything out. Through the action and dialogue they’ll know what they need to know. And with picture books, the illustrations fill in the blanks.

So, going back to the title question, the story should be written first then the illustrations should be created to enhance each scene (page or spread).

Side note: If you’re writing a nonfiction book, the text could definitely explain the illustrations. But, not with fiction writing. Again, fiction writing is about bringing the reader on an engaging and page-turning journey.

While the setting can be an amazing part of a fiction story, characters need to be an actual part of the story to be in it.

Articles on writing for children3 Steps to Querying Publishers and Agents
Balance in Fiction Writing – The Major Elements
Create a Believable Protagonist with Realistic Characteristics

Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn you story into a book you’ll be proud of.

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

Apr 30

Children’s Writing and Information Dump

Tips on writing for childrenAs a ghostwriter and editor, occasionally I get clients who give me a draft of a story that has information dump within the first few spreads of a picture book.

This is a no-no.

Information dump is when an author literally dumps a chunk of information for the reader to absorb.

Granted most new writers may not realize they’re hitting the reader with these big chunks of information. Or, the author may want to tell the reader what she thinks the reader should know, but doesn’t know how to weave the information into the story.

I think the problem is the ‘author’ wants to make sure the reader understands what’s going on. For example:

Billy and Joe had been best friends since Kindergarten. They played together every day and even had sleep overs. They were also on the same football team. Then Billy insulted Joe last year. After that, Joe didn’t want to be friends with Billy anymore. Now, it’s a new school year.

While this example isn’t too long, there are some info dumps that are paragraphs long, pages long, or in the case of picture books, spreads long.

Another possible reason for information dumping.

Another possibility is that the ‘author’ is writing the story for himself. He’s writing to see what he wants to see in the book. He’s not thinking about what a seven year old or a 10 year old will want . . . even expect in a book.

Whatever the reason, information dump at the beginning of a story leads to a very boring beginning. And, it delays the initial problem that the protagonist must overcome.

While this has touched on the beginning of a story so far, it’s not a good idea to dump clumps of information elsewhere within the story either.

Why information dumping isn’t a good idea.

Children, even adults, have short attention spans. Being told what went on is boring for the reader. She wants to see or hear what’s going on through action and dialogue. Information or backstory must be weaved into the story here and there.

For example, going back to Billy and Joe. Instead of telling the reader flat out in the beginning of the story why they’re not friends, bring it in through dialogue.

It was the first day of the new school year. Joe walked past Billy in the yard without looking at him or saying a word.

“Okay, enough already. I insulted you last year. Get over it already,” chided Billy.

This lets the reader know what’s happening without knocking him over the head or dumping clumps of information. It brings the reader into the action and conversation. It’s effective writing.

While you may not be able to get every bit of information into the story that you think should be there, it doesn’t matter. Your reader will read between the lines. .

So, think twice before dumping that information on your reader.

Articles on writing for childrenBuilding a Writing Career Takes Practice and Focus
What’s Your Writing Forte?
3 Steps to Querying Publishers and Agents

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