Jul 31

Writing – Trimming The Fat

Writing tips on writing tightGuest Post by Penny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz)

If you check market resources both for printed and on-line publications [picture books], you’ll find a number whose word limit is below 1,000 words. How do you trim the fat from your manuscript to fit within the tight confines of those word limits?

First, check your manuscript for “weak” modifiers. These are the words which writers hoping to strengthen another word. The two most commonly used words are “very” and “really.” Removing these words from your sentences will give them more impact.

Other weak, modifying words to watch for are: some, just, so, such, even, certainly, definitely, exactly, and that (when overused).

Second, check your manuscript for “wishy-washy” words. You’ll recognize them by their lack of clear definition. Words which fall into this category are: somewhat, sort of, rather, a little, perhaps, seem, and words with “ish” on the end, such as “shortish,” “tallish,” and “brownish.”

In an effort to create realistic dialogue, some writers insert “well” and “oh” into their sentences. Be sure to eliminate these from your manuscript. If a writer were to capture true dialogue, there would be pages and pages of “um,” “uh,” “well,” and “er.” Fortunately, as writers, that’s not our job. We need to create an illusion of reality, not play back word-for-word a “real” conversation. An occasional spattering of the interjections “oh,” “well,” and “um,” is sufficient.

Although adjectives and adverbs have a clear place in our writing, there isn’t an adjective or adverb that can strengthen a weak noun or verb. If you’re looking for variety in your writing, use a thesaurus instead. Go through your manuscript and highlight where you’ve used these modifiers to fatten up and strengthen ineffective words. Go back to the highlighted areas and replace those weak words with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

It’s not easy to trim the fat whether eliminating those yummy chocolate truffles from our diets or cutting out the weak modifiers, “wishy-washy” words, extra “wells,” “ums,” “ers,” and “ohs” from our dialogues, and replacing adjectives and adverbs with strong nouns and verbs. But if we want our human body or our body of work to be fit and desirable, we must trim the fat to achieve tight, firm writing or a lean physique.

While working on my latest release Ghostly Visions, I had a lot of help from my editors in trimming back the “fat.” This middle grade novel is comprised of two books published as one: Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch.

Children's middle grade book

In Ghost for Rent, Wendy Wiles attracts ghosts when her parents separate and she, her brother, and mother move into a haunted house. The story begins in Portland, Oregon and quickly moves to small town, Scappoose, Oregon. Miserable at leaving her friends and beloved Portland behind, Wendy meets her neighbor Jennifer who tells her the house Wendy’s mom rented is haunted. After two of them appear to Wendy, the girls find themselves tracking down the mystery of who the ghosts are and why they “live” in the Wiles’ home.

In Ghost for Lunch, Wendy’s friend, Jennifer, moves away, leaving Wendy sad until new neighbors and their restaurant in St. Helens bring ghosts back into Wendy’s life. She, her brother, and their new friend discover the two cases are connected. Once again, the young sleuths use clues and lots of brainstorming to figure out who is haunting the restaurant.

While on the surface, these two stories appear to be about ghosts and the mystery of solving them, they are also about the importance of family and friends and working together to solve a problem.

Ghostly Visions is available direct from the publisher 4RV Publishing LLC for $15.99 including shipping and handling. It can also be ordered from your local bookstore with the following ISBN numbers: ISBN-10: 0982642326, ISBN-13: 978-0982642320, or through Amazon.

About the Author

Author of Ghostly VisionsPenny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz) has published over 100 articles, 75 stories, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications, and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She is a former editor for MuseItUp Publishing, 4RV Publishing, and Damnation Books. Visit her web site at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com and her writing blog at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/.

4RV Publishing has joined her two middle grade novels (Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch) as Ghostly Visions. She recently released Boo’s Bad Day with 4RV Publishing and has one other children’s picture book under contract with them: Many Colored Coats. She has three romances published by MuseItUp Publishing: Love Delivery, Lady in Waiting, and Mirror, Mirror. Her short story collection, A Past and A Future, is available through Alban Lake Publishing and Smashwords.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper?
Focus, Determination, and Perseverance = Writing Success
Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory  

Jan 29

Tips for Marketing Your Children’s Book

children's book, excalibur, fantasyGuest post by Fiona Ingram

When marketing your children’s book, a better result comes from a finely-tuned approach. Simply honing in on your target market the right way will reap great benefits. Here are my tips.

1. Have a top quality product. Your book must be entertaining or educational, well written with age appropriate language, themes and/or illustrations, and have an eye-catching cover and appealing blurb. Parents and those involved in buying children’s books will probably be a lot more demanding about the quality of material to be viewed by a young reader.
2. Define your target market. These are parents, relatives, teachers, librarians, literacy experts, and parenting and educational organizations. If they trust the quality of your book, you are halfway there.
3. Ask yourself: why would they read your book or choose it for young readers? What is the focus or ‘hook’ that will captivate a young audience? Is it adventure with a bit of history or geography? Fantasy with lots of imaginative goings-on? Is it educational, religious or cultural in theme? This will help you narrow down the persons or organizations who will give your book a second glance.
4. A good author website is a must, where buyers can read more about the author and the background to the book/s, see what the author has achieved, such as winning book awards, writing articles of interest to parents and educators etc. Don’t forget a Facebook page for your book or book series where you can post event updates and your book video/s.
5. Enter your book in every possible but reputable award. Book awards are a fantastic way to blow your own trumpet modestly. Awards and even just nominations usually come with stickers that, displayed on your book cover, give it higher status. An award or nomination says that your book has achieved industry standards and is worth purchasing. This is important when attracting the attention of libraries, bookstores, and schools.
6. Reviews are another excellent way to spread the word. People rely on reviews because they are the opinions of buyers just like them. Apart from Amazon, B&N and other major book sites, don’t forget to list your book/s on Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, and Jacketflap, which focuses on children’s books. Take it a step further and approach parenting, literacy and educational blogs (such as The Reading Tub), offering to write informative articles on kids and reading. Don’t forget publications devoted to children’s books such as School Library Journal, The Horn Book, Library Media Connection, and Booklist. Subscribe to children’s book publisher newsletters (Publishers Weekly and Scholastic) and find out what other authors are doing. James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead is also a great resource.
7. Give something away. You can give of your time and skill as a storyteller. Using the hook that will appeal to librarians and educators, approach your local schools, libraries and literacy centers with an offer of a book reading, a chat to kids about books and the fun in reading, or include a quiz if your book has an educational theme. Kids love quizzes and they can all win a prize–bookmarks, postcards, and posters are a cheap and fun way of making sure your book lingers long after you have left.
8. Blog tours are an incredibly effective way of targeting the audience interested in you and your book.

These are just a few ways you can focus on marketing your children’s book. Lastly, I’ll reiterate the advice I was once given. Tell everyone you know about your book—family, friends with kids, local teachers and librarians. Word of mouth is the best advertising and it’s free!

children's authorAbout Fiona Ingram:

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

About The Search for the Stone of Excalibur:

A modern day adventure as our protagonists search for Excalibur and the treasures it holds!

Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur.

However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped.

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fiona.robyn.ingram

Get Your copy of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur.

~~~~~

Fiona, it was a pleasure hosting you on your virtual book tour for your new book. It looks like a wonderful book. Best wishes for its success!

Karen

Jan 21

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

Middle-grade fantasy adventure story

By Karen Cioffi

It’s always interesting how writers find ideas when writing a fiction story. Some may simply come up with an idea, others may see something that triggers a story, and sometimes a story is handed to a writer.

I had never thought of rewriting a folktale until being given a rough outline of an ancient Chinese tale, Taoist Master of the Lao Mountain. This was the inception of middle-grade, fantasy adventure Walking Through Walls.

It was June of 2008, and I belonged to a writing critique group along with a Chinese nonfiction writer who had a basic outline of an ancient Chinese tale that he wanted to pass along to a fiction writer. Since writing a fiction story wasn’t his cup of tea, he gave me the outline.

After reading the outline, I loved the lessons it could bring to children. Folktales come from all over the world and usually provide morale messages geared toward doing right, rather than wrong. These tales are a wonderful way to teach children through an engaging and entertaining story.

Since the tale, as with many ancient tales, involved an adult as the protagonist the first step needed was to rewrite it for today’s children’s market, meaning it needed a child protagonist. Wanting to stay as close to the original tale, I used some of its flavor, descriptions, and names. That’s how the main character’s name, Wang, was chosen. Along with keeping the story’s flavor, I wanted it to be engaging for today’s child, so I came up with new characters, the dragon, enhanced storyline and plot, and so on.

Having an outline to guide me was a great help; it offered a general direction, like an arrow pointing North. So, as I began to rewrite the tale it was able to take on a life of its own, while still heading North. And, to ensure the story kept its flavor, I made sure to include bits of the original story to keep it as close to the tale’s outline as possible.

Working on the story, I knew it needed to take place in ancient China, so decided to use the 16th century as the backdrop for the story. To add an element of realism to the story, I researched ancient China, including foods, flowers, dwellings, and clothing. I also contacted the Chinese writer who gave me the outline for some additional cultural information.

I worked on the story for well over a year, revising it, having it critiqued numerous times, revising it some more, and even had it professionally edited before beginning to send it out for submissions. Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with the 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference and I signed up to have a pitch with 4RV Publishing. As nervous as I was, the pitch went well and the manuscript was accepted. For the next year, it was more revisions, tweaking, additional elements to the story, and editing to make the middle-grade, fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, better than before.

Then, the story was ready for a cover illustration. Aidana WillowRaven was assigned to my book and although the dragon in the story was described as “a shimmering golden dragon,” Aidana ‘felt’ the flavor of the story pointed to a more oriental type dragon. We went back and forth a bit about the dragon’s size and shape, but Aidana’s vision of what the dragon should look like was perfect.

Now, the description of the ‘golden dragon’ in the story needed to be corrected. So, I changed the text to read, “Suddenly a magnificent dragon with shimmering red and silver scales appeared.” Done. The description of the dragon and the cover matched; we were ready to move forward.

Next came the interior design formatting, which includes the text. After blocking the text it was determined another six pages was needed to make the spine wide enough. So, I had to come up with more content. As the story was complete, to fill the page count I came up with an Author’s Note page, four pages of Reading Comprehension, an Activities Page, and after more research, eight pages of information on the Ming Dynasty time period and the Chinese dragon.

Finally, Walking Through Walls, a middle-grade fantasy adventure was published and won The Children’s Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award.

Writing a fiction story from its inception to publication can take many paths; this is the path Walking Through Walls took.

Children's ghostwriter

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

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

You can also give me a call at: 347—834—6700.