Sep 19

Do Your Characters’ Descriptions Matter?

Character descriptions are super important.

To answer the title question, character descriptions are essential.

It’s these descriptions that give the reader insight into the character, and let the reader know:

-What type of person she is
-What his family is like
-What his education status is
-What her hobbies are
-What she’s passionate about
-What she’s afraid of
-What his physical details are
-What his social standing is
-Where she lives

The list can go on to include talents, sports, beliefs, and so much more if the story calls for it.

Just a simple description of a character drawing tells the reader about him. It’s possible he’s artistic. Whether he’s talented at it or not will give another element of his personality.

Suppose he’s terrible at drawing but does it anyway. What can that tell the reader about him? Possibly he’s determined. He may march to his own drum, or he just likes it and doesn’t care about excelling in it.

Maybe another character studies all the time and gets all As. Maybe the character studies all the time and barely passes. This gives a big clue as to the ‘character’ of these characters. The one who gets all As is driven. The one who barely passes may not be driven but knows without the struggling, she’ll fail. Possibly character isn’t as intelligent as the first.

What if a character is always yelled at and put down by his father? Might that help the reader understand the character’s behavioral issues?

EXAMPLES

-In the first couple of pages of middle grade Walking Through Walls, the main character Wang, is described as being disgruntled. He doesn’t like hard work. He’s impatient, and he fights with his sister.

Right off the bat, the reader knows a lot about this character. The reader may even be able to see himself in the character. This makes a connection.

What if a description shows that a character is disabled and in a wheelchair but strives to do everything she physically can do, even playing sports? What does this tell you about the character?

How about a description of a teen character lifting weights? This simple activity, combined with a couple of other details, can tell you a lot about his physical and emotional state.

Maybe he wants to be strong and look good. Maybe he’s physically on the weak side and is being bullied – he may want to be able to protect himself, take care of himself. It could even be the emotional side of it, he doesn’t want to appear weak.

How about a cross country runner or competitive swimmer? The first thing the reader may think of is that the character has physical stamina.

Another layer of the character could be the reason why he does such strenuous activity. Does he simply love it? Or, does he have ADHD or a depressive personality, and the rigorous routine helps him?

Providing character descriptions will help the reader connect to the character. Hopefully it will help create a strong connection. It will help the reader form a vested interest in what happens to the character. It will make the reader root for the character and keep turning the pages.

So, the next time you’re creating your character, be sure to think about how you can add descriptions to create a multi-dimensional character that will bring that character to life.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book. HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Sep 12

What Should You Do If Your Book Fails?

Book marketing gone bad

Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Determining What Went Wrong to Get Future Marketing Right

Once upon a time, way back in the last decade, author and researcher Lisa Ann Hewlett’s publicity predicament illustrated to the world of books what we authors suspected all along: Huge amounts of publicity surrounding a release don’t necessarily translate into massive sales figures. I still remember it today and am haunted by it whenever a client tells me that her marketing isn’t working.

When a major publicity coup like Lisa’s turns out to be the most bitter dose of rejection we could expect to encounter, it’s an indicator that it could happen to anyone. That may happen even when the publicity is the stuff of which dreams—in Surround Sound and Technicolor—are made of.

It is reported (variably) that Hewlett’s Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children sold between 8,000 and 10,000 copies. Many authors would be ecstatic with sales figures that look like that, but everything is relative. It is believed that Miramax paid a six-figure advance for this title and projected sales in the 30,000 range for hardcover alone. Considering expectations for the book, the figures do appear dismal.

Therefore, smart people in the publishing industry searched for reasons for its less than stellar performance, especially with the kind of publicity this book received, and I mean biggies like Time Magazine (the cover, no less) and several “New York” magazines. TV shows like “60 Minutes,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and “NBC Nightly News” lined up behind this book, for heaven’s sake. Even Oprah’s magic book-sale-wand was not effective.

Hewlett’s book made great news! It warned young career women that they have been mislead by petri dish miracles reported in the press. She pointed out that women have come to believe that they can put conception after career and be reasonably sure they can have still have both. She attempts to exorcise that notion in Quest.

So, just what did go wrong?

Many groused that the title was not scintillating nor was the book’s cover. Those in the know wondered if that influenced book sales. But that’s a huge burden to put on professionally produced book cover or title choice in a book published by an experienced, savvy and BIG publisher. Something else was clearly wrong.

My thirty-seven-year-old-daughter who had just returned to college to embark on a career in anthropology suggested that women don’t want to hear the dreadful news. She says, “I just flat out don’t want to hear this bad news in the middle of something rewarding, exciting and new! Why would I slap down the price of a book to get depressed?” Another unmarried friend who is also caring for an aging mother said, “I wouldn’t buy it. What am I supposed to do with that kind of information once I have it?” For women like them, delaying childbearing isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

All this searching for answers may reap results, may help publicists and publishers and authors determine cause and effect so that this syndrome can be avoided in the future.

The problem lies in the fact that this soul-searching and hullabaloo was misdirected. Even Hewlett says, “I don’t know what to make of this absence of huge sales.” One can see her shaking her head in disbelief. If someone with her research skills can’t figure it out, can anyone? It may be the economy, stupid. Or retailing. Or the book biz.

It’s surely something completely out of the author’s control unless someone had thought to run the idea by a focus group of career women the age of the book’s expected audience. In the publishing industry, the term “beta reader” is often associated with this kind of research, but it must be accompanied by hard questions posed to the readers and that seems to entail some notion of unforeseen exigencies.

That seems like a bit of a conundrum, don’t you think? To do that, a similar trial I might run for my The Frugal Book Promoter might miss the mark for brand new authors because a large percentage still might be operating on decades-old ideas of what big publishers will do in terms of marketing! If that hadn’t occurred to me or my publisher, we wouldn’t have asked the hard question!

But, I think the most valuable lesson that can be learned with the Quest kind of rejection—any kind, really—is that it is not personal, that it pays to search for the lesson even after the fact.

We must keep the faith, keep writing, and keep publicizing, because if we don’t, we’ll never know if a book—or a career—was given the best possible chance at success.

Here’s what I know for sure. I now fear publishing less. If my faith should slip a tad, I know it need not be fatal. I know those things thanks to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

This article was originally published at: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2019/06/what-to-do-when-book-any-book-fails.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author and Book Marketer

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. She taught editing and marketing classes at UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and carefully chooses one novel she believes in a year to edit.

The Frugal Editor (bit.ly/FrugalEditor) award-winner as well as the winner of Reader View’s Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the coveted Irwin award. She appears in commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Disney Cruises (Japan), and Time-Life CDs and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S STORY?

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of.

Send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable and marketable shape today!

Rather do it yourself? Check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Sep 05

Writing a Marketable Children’s Book – First Four Steps

Writing children's books that sell

No matter how you look at it, writing books is a business. The same goes for writing magazine articles, copywriting, and so on.

Any time you write with the thought of selling what you’re writing, it becomes a business.

It’s not that the marketing end of your writing should put a damper on your ‘muse,’ but there are a few key marketing components that you need to keep in mind when writing.

  1. The very first component is your audience.

It’s been said over and over that you need to have a target market – a target audience for your book.

If you think about it, you’ll realize that’s true.

Imagine you wrote a story about your Alaskan adventure.

Who do you think would be interested in it? Who do you think would buy your book?

Now imagine you wrote a children’s middle-grade fantasy.

Same questions.

But the answers will be different.

In an article at Live, Write, Thrive, the author takes this a step further. She advises to analyze your ‘perfect’ reader. Find out what he likes. Does he have any pets? Does she like sports, music, art? What’s her family life like? What about school? What about friends? The deeper you go, the better.

With the answers to these questions, you can craft a story geared toward that reader. Or you can include tidbits that particular reader can relate to in a story you are already writing.

Maybe your reader is a junior lifeguard and cross-country runner. And, he has an eighty-pound, bronco-jumping Bernedoodle.

With this knowledge, you can craft a story that incorporates elements related to the readers’ age group while not taking away from the story’s creative process.

  1. Have a great theme.

First, what is theme?

One explanation of theme is from MasterClass: “In simpler stories, the theme may be a moral or message: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ In more complex stories, the central theme is typically a more open-ended exploration of some fundamental aspect of society or humanity.”

The theme should be subtly woven into your story.

But there are occasions when you don’t know what the theme of your story is until it’s complete.

Six of the most common themes are:

-Good vs. evil
-Love
-Redemption
-Courage
-Coming of age
-Revenge

As a children’s ghostwriter, the themes I see most often from clients are:

-Be who you are
-Acceptance
-Being a good friend and making friends
-Kindness
-Bullying
-Environment

Being a children’s writer or a person who wants to be the author of their own children’s book, the themes tend to be geared toward bringing awareness to children. The themes are usually about teaching children, guiding them.

Your theme should be like a ghost, invisible. But like the wind, you can feel it. You know it’s there.

  1. Be different.

It’s challenging to come up with a unique story. Everything that can go on in life has been written about.

So, how do you keep your story fresh?

A good way to do this is to study recently published books in your genre. Make the bulk of them traditionally published as they would have had to get past the gatekeepers.

There are two reasons for researching traditionally published books:

A. As mentioned, the storyline and writing will be good…good enough to make it past the gatekeepers.

B. Publishing houses know what’s being received well and what’s not. They’re doing a lot of research that you can take advantage of.

After you research your contenders, buckle down and write a story that’s better, one that has a different spin. This may take a great deal of effort, but it will help make your story stand out; it will make your story unique.

Want to stay away from popular stuff? Think about historical fiction.

If you go this route, just keep in mind you need to have an audience who will be interested in it.

You might even get ideas from folktales. Not the ‘overly done’ ones, but older, ancient tales.

Whatever you write, make it your own.

  1. Write a good story.

You can take all the steps necessary to creating a marketable children’s book, but if the story isn’t properly written, if you don’t have a good story, those steps will be for naught.

A quick breakdown the elements needed to write a good story:

-Theme (we discussed this already)
-Plot
-Story structure
-Characters
-Setting
-Style and tone

To learn what’s involved in each of these elements, you can check out:
6 Tips to What Makes a Good Story?
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2017/06/18/what-makes-a-good-story-6-tips/

If you have any other tips on writing a marketable children’s book, please put them in the comments.

IF YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE SHARE!

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

Aug 29

The Great First Impression Book Proposal

Today, I have a review of an important book for authors. If you intend to submit your nonfiction book or novel to a publisher or literary agent, you need a book proposal. I found this book super-helpful.

The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Your Book to an Agent or Publisher in Thirty Minutes or Less
Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Publisher: Modern History Press; 2nd ed. edition (September 15, 2019)
ISBN 13: ‎ 978-1615994816
ISBN-10: 1615994815
Reviewed by: Karen Cioffi

While I first read Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s book, The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need to Know About Selling Your Book to an Agent or Publisher in Thirty Minutes or Less,” years ago, the author came out with it in an audiobook format – great for those who’d rather listen than read. As with the book, it has everything, plus even more tips, advice and insights you’ll need to write a book proposal that will do what it’s supposed to… get you in the gate.

The author starts by explaining that a book proposal is a cross between an outline, a resume, and a media kit. Then in six easy-to-follow chapters, Howard-Johnson explains exactly what to do and how to do it to create a proposal that will impress a gatekeeper.

The guesswork is gone, and without having to study a full-length book or take a class.

Along with how to write the proposal, this audiobook includes advice on formatting the proposal and what to add in the marketing section to let the publisher or agent know that you intend to help market your book and how you’ll go about doing that.

It also has examples and lots of resources. If you’re thinking of pitching a nonfiction book, “The Great First Impression Book Proposal” is a must.

About the Author

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s several careers prepared her for promoting her own and others’ books. She was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune-A Great Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper. Howard-Johnson’s experience in journalism and as a poet and author of fiction and nonfiction helped the multi award-winning author understand how different genres can be marketed more effectively. She was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and earned a certificate from that same school’s Instructor Development Program. She turned her knowledge toward helping other writers with her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, including her flagship book The Frugal Book Promoter and her favorite, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. The Frugal Editor won the Next Generation Indie Best Book Award. Howard-Johnson was honored as Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by California Legislature members Carol Liu, Dario Frommer, and Jack Scott. Carolyn is a popular presenter at tradeshows (retail and writing) and writers’ conferences and has lost count of her radio show guest spots. Born and raised in Utah, Howard-Johnson raised her own family in sunny Southern California.
To read Carolyn’s full bio and purchase the book or audio, visit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1615994815/ref=as_li_tl

The reviewer, Karen Cioffi, is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter. She is also an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on writing and Editor-in-Chief of Writers on the Move. You can check out Karen’s books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S WRITING PROJECT?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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.

Aug 22

Even Tiny Action Steps Can Produce Huge Results

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

This Warren Buffet quote inspires me. It’s simple, yet so amazingly powerful.

  1. A tiny seed can create something as massive as a tree, even a sequoia tree.

Think of the giant sequoia tree in California, USA. It averages around 26 feet in diameter, weighs around 4,189,000 lbs. and reaches heights of 275 feet. According to Wikipedia, “Record trees have been measured to be 311 feet in height and over 56 feet in diameter. The oldest known giant sequoia based on ring count is 3,500 years old.”

The seed of the sequoia tree is 0.16–0.20 inches long, 0.039 inches broad, and 0.039 inches wide.

Hard to imagine, isn’t it.

Something that tiny can produce something that enormous.

Well, this can easily relate to writing, to book marketing, to business . . . to just about everything in your work and life.

Small positive actionable steps, no matter how tiny, can create massive results.

You may think your writing and marketing efforts aren’t moving you forward, but think of how long it takes that tiny seed to grow into a tree that gives shade.

  1. What you sow today can have benefits for many tomorrows.

Time will pass whether you take action or not.

If you have an idea, take action now. Don’t wait for tomorrow or until you have more time or until you have more money. Take action now. The benefits may turn out to be bigger than you could possibly imagine.

You may reap the benefits of your writing or book marketing or business efforts far into your future, so take that initial step.

Or, maybe it’s expansion that you’re thinking about, or a new strategy.

Keep in mind, though, that every living thing needs sun, water, and food to grow. So, when you take that step (plant that seed), be sure to give it the nurturing it needs to become what you believe it can be.

Plant that seed today!

This post was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2015/02/even-tiny-action-steps-can-produce-huge.html

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Aug 15

The Writing Juggling Act

It’s time consuming to write a story… to write a good story.

I’m sure there are writers today who sit down and write a story in a day, but I’m talking about doing it right.

This is especially true of writing for children.

It’s so important to know the rules. Know what the standard industry guidelines are and adhere to them.

There’s a lot that goes into writing. And if you want it to be publishing and marketing worthy, again, you want to do it right.

But what happens when you finish your manuscript. You revised it, edited, it and proofed it, and possibly even had a professional writer look at it.

Your manuscript, your baby, is ready to fly.

You enter the traditional submitting phase. You’ve done your research and have found literary agents and book publishers in your genre. The submitting process is in full gear.

This process can easily take longer than the writing process, but you need to persevere.

In the meantime…

Should you just sit around and wait for a bite from an agent or publisher?

Should you just sit around and gather dust on your keyboard?

Absolutely not!

You need to move onto another story as soon as you start the submitting process on your first book. Once book two is being submitted, it’s onto book three, and so on.

This goes even more so for articles.

According to writer Suzanne Lieurance you should have around 12 articles written and circulating to magazine editors.

This is how you get work.

It’s the writing juggling act.

Keep the stories or articles moving.

Once you finish one story, get started on the next.

Another aspect of the writing juggling act: Book Marketing.

While you do need to keep writing those stories and getting them published, you also need to work on marketing you and your writing.

Marketing is a part of every author’s writing life, if you expect to sell your books.

-The first step of marketing is to create a quality book.
-The next step is to submit your work – this is pitching your work.
-If you’re self-publishing, you will need to actually publish it and have it available for sale.

Once the book finds a home, it’s about creating visibility. If people don’t know it exists, you won’t sell it. This is an ongoing process.

If you’re wondering if having to promote your books is a must, even major publishers expect their authors to have an online author platform. They also expect the author to be able to help sell their books through that platform.

And, small publishers expect you to do all the marketing.

Marketing is that important.

So, what’s the basics of an author online platform?

-The first step is to have a website and keep it current.

-Next is to post to social media to bring awareness about you and your books or articles.

This will take up any spare writing time you may have.

So, if you’re a writer, there is no such thing as downtime. It’s all about the writing juggling act.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Aug 08

Giving Basic Writing Advice

A while ago, I was asked to look over a children’s fiction picture book manuscript. This was not a paying job, just a favor.

The ‘new to writing’ authors, who are both health care professionals, had already been calling major publishers to find out submission requirements. They were told their manuscript would not be looked at without an agent.

So, they went to the library to find a book on top agents.

While this is a worthy endeavor, there are some basic first steps to take before shooting for the stars.

Just glancing at the manuscript, I knew it needed a lot of work. And, interestingly, I was surprised to see so many errors in a simple 600-word story. It seems as we progress in learning the craft of writing, we forget that we didn’t know the very basics at one time either.

So then, I had to figure out what to say to the authors without alienating them or totally discouraging them.

When critiquing or giving writing advice, it’s important to begin with the positive aspects of the manuscript. If the errors are basic and there are a lot of them, you may also want to state them in generic terms, not to offend the author/s.

What does this mean?

Well, it’s not a good idea to say, “You shouldn’t have the children’s picture book manuscript formatted in lists, numbered, or in Australian Sunrise 10pt font.”

Instead, you might say, “Manuscripts are usually preferred typed in New Times Roman 12pt font, and are double spaced using a free form flow with the first sentence of each paragraph indented.

See the difference?

To help with clarity, you could include a first page example of a manuscript you have, or rewrite the 1st paragraph or two of the authors’ manuscript.

If there are just too many errors, for time’s sake you can make a list of proper manuscript formatting tips. This is the approach I took.

I started out with the ‘positive:’

This is a wonderful idea for a children’s book and has great potential, especially that both of you are professionals in the health field. Children will certainly benefit from the story’s information. It could use some tweaking, though.

Then I added the following:

Here are a few tips for writing and formatting a manuscript to help get it submission ready:

• Manuscripts should be formatted in 12 pt Times New Roman Font
• They should be double spaced
• They should be in free form without numbering for pages or in list form
• The first sentence of each paragraph should be indented
• Children love action – actions are better shown through ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’
• Notes for illustrations after each of your intended pages are usually frowned upon by publishers
• Most publishers, especially the major ones use their own illustrators
• Manuscripts are more likely to make it past the slush pile if they are polished
• Usually writers go through a process of one or two critique groups and writing groups. After rewrites and editing it gets to a point where it looks perfect. That’s when it needs to be professionally edited.

These tips are part of the advice I offered the authors and I kept it as generic as possible.

After you note the manuscript errors, you should end your advice on another positive note. You might say, “With rewriting and editing, you will have an engaging story that children will be sure to love, and it’ll be submission ready.”

I then provided several writing links about writing for children and editing.

Since every author’s personality is different it’s usually best to use the gentle approach when offering writing advice.

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Writing Help

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Aug 01

A Story Revision Checklist

Contributed by Children’s Writer Linda Wilson

Once your first draft is written, you can begin revising. Looking at one piece of revision at a time can be helpful. After I finished the first draft of Book 2 in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, I let the manuscript rest while working on other projects. About three weeks later, I was amazed at how much revision was needed. Every single page of my 30,000-word manuscript has #2 pencil cross-outs, squiggly lines, and deletions—every one!

To be effective, it’s good to have a revision plan.

I stuck with a general revision the first time. That included condensing long-winded paragraphs, finding better word choices, making dialogue sound kid-friendly, and replacing “telling” with “showing” passages.

Again, I put the manuscript down. I wanted to begin again with fresh eyes. While the story rested, I shared my story outline and a few chapters with my critique group. They helped me think through flaws in the manuscript that I couldn’t see. Also, I lined up my beta readers, fellow authors and friends who love to read and have offered to give me their opinions. But before I showed it to them, it was time to move on to complete the revision process.

The next revision began a thorough analysis and can be accomplished in parts.

-My first question: What do I need to re-think? Does the title work? Are the plot points in place? Does the story have an arc? Does each character have an arc?

-Is the story structure solid?

-The first sentence, first paragraph, and first chapter are critical. For more tips, please refer to my article “Writers: First Paragraph Essentials”: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2017/10/writers-first-paragraph-essentials.html

-Does the story have enough conflict? Stakes?

-Are there any characters who don’t have an active role in the story? If so, they either need to be taken out or given an active role in the plot.

-Are there any scenes that don’t move the story forward? Any scenes that drag? You need to find ways to change the scenes that aren’t working.

-Is the story told mainly through dialogue and action? Description can be added, but sparingly. Condense to a minimum and spread out any description “dumps.”

-Is the main character’s flaw/need evident in the beginning, and satisfied/solved from what she’s learned by the end? Does she grow and change by the end?

-Are the facts accurate?

-Are the details specific? Check for anything vague or general.

-Do a drama check. Heighten the drama wherever you can.

-Is the story told from the main character’s viewpoint? For example, any description you introduce needs to be seen through her eyes.

-Make sure the main theme shines through throughout your story. Do the minor themes bolster the main theme?

Books that have helped me the most: Elaine Marie Alphin’s boom, Creating Characters Kids Will Love. Her example on page nine is especially helpful:

His sneakers were braced against the roof’s shingles. Slowly, Benjy took one hand off the sill and gripped a lower shingle instead. Then he took a deep breath, told himself very firmly not to be afraid, and let go of the sill with his other hand . . . Why couldn’t he have been a few inches taller? Benji cursed his height silently. Even just a couple of inches would have meant his toes might have been able to feel the bench beneath him. But wishing wouldn’t make him grow.

Also helpful are books by Chris Eboch: You Can Write for Children and Advanced Plotting.

Recently, I’ve been reading and enjoying the graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. I bought Guts, and even though my book is a chapter book and not a graphic novel, it helps to read passages now and then to remind myself to “talk” like a kid.

While writing my first book, Secret in the Stars, I had to disengage from disappointment after finding many glaring errors, when I thought the book was done. This must be the armor people talk about that writers must grow and wear, and perhaps why people admire authors so much. For the fortitude and single-mindedness it takes to do the seat-time, on and on, until we are finally satisfied with the finished product. Whatever it takes.

While writing Secret, I thought the amount of revision it took was excessive. Now that I’ve written multiple books, I understand how much revision is required. Lots. A good way to look at it is: the hard work of getting the words on paper is done. It’s time to play! Revising allows you to play with what you’ve written, rethink better ways of showing what the characters are going through, and re-do anything that isn’t working. When you’re finished, after careful attention to every detail, you can take the guesswork out of the many aspects of your story, and feel sure of your work. You’ve earned the title of a professional author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Children's author

Linda Wilson is a children’s author, and her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, is available at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda on https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com

Need Help With Your Story

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Picture Books – Story or Illustrations, Which Comes First?

Writing – Showing vs. Telling

Writing Procrastination: IF and WHEN Were Planted and Nothing Grew


Jul 25

How to Make Your Story’s Setting Come Alive

Setting informs the reader of the time and place of your story.

It can include the time period, the physical location, the climate, and the social surroundings.

But it can do a lot more.

An example of this is the middle grade book, Walking Through Walls. It’s set in 16th century China, and the speech, the descriptions of the behaviors, the clothes, the trades, the food, and more all add to the authenticity of the time period.

This allows the reader to get a feel for the environment the protagonist is in. It helps bring the reader into the time period.

You setting descriptions can be powerful.

  1. It takes a village to raise a child.

Okay, that’s kind of a stretch for Tip #1 on how to make your setting come alive.

I was going for: it takes all the senses when describing setting. Don’t limit it to just one.

It seems the majority of authors stick to the scenery – what can be seen. While this is an important sense, the reader will become more involved if there’s more to ‘feel’.

To make your setting come alive, your fictional landscape, use as many senses as you can. You should include smell, touch, sound, and if the story allows, even taste.

In Walking Through Walls, the protagonist Wang is walking home:

Wang ambled back to the cottage. He noticed his favorite flower, the lemon lilies, in full bloom. They draped the landscape. Hmm, they smell so good.

While that passage doesn’t go into detail, it brings the smell of the lemon lilies into the reader’s mind, bringing another sense into the picture.

Here’s another scene from Walking Through Walls:

Tired and hungry, Wang trudged through fog thick as porridge.

This gives the reader a bit more insight into Wang’s journey. Again, while it’s not explained in detail, the fog might have fell damp on his skin. Maybe it left beads of water on him. The reader has something more to picture and imagine than just a fog.

The senses can also help to bring backstory into the story. Through taste, smell, and even texture, the character can remember people or times from their past, enlightening the reader to important elements of the character’s history.

  1. Use your character’s emotions to describe settings.

If your character is in a good mood or reflective, he will sense the world around him much different than if he’s in a bad mood or angry.

Going back to Wang and the lemon lilies, if he’s happy, he might bend down and pick up one of the flowers, bring it up to his face and take in the sweet odor.

If Wang is angry, he might trample over the lemon lilies, grumbling under his breath.

How the character reacts to or describes his surroundings will add an element of emotion.

  1. Treat your setting like part of your story.

Your setting can create a deeper experience for the reader. Using rich details will help the reader dive further into the story. She’ll feel like she’s there.

It helps the reader understand what the character is feeling, what he’s facing.

Here’s another passage from Walking Through Walls:

Slowly his gaze traveled up and up and up until he could see no further. The mountain loomed above him like a never-ending wall. Its thick giant trees left little space between them for a trail.

This gives the reader a pretty good picture of what Wang was facing, bringing the reader into the story.

  1. Add just enough setting description.

Okay, you’re a writer and it may come easy to write every little detail about a setting. You might want to capture it from multiple views or describe every color.

Well, if you add too many details that aren’t important to the story, the reader may get bored and skim over that section.

This may lead the reader to wonder what other sections she’ll have to skim over.

While you want to keep the setting descriptions within limits, the description or detail you include should do more than just show where the characters are, if at all possible. Think emotional state, symbolizing, evoking a memory, etc.

Going back to Wang looking up at the formidable mountain, it foreshadowed the difficult journey he had begun.

Just like the rest of the story, the setting description should move the story forward.

The setting and its descriptions help create a connection between the reader, the character, and the story.

But…

If you’re writing a children’s picture book, you can ignore the above.

The illustrations in a picture book fill in all the setting descriptions.

They show the emotions, the surroundings, the characters… they show what the story text doesn’t say.

It’s a whole different writing experience.

This article was inspired by:
5 Mistakes Writers Make When It Comes to the Setting

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Jul 18

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star

Shoot for the Stars

“Hitch your wagon to a star!”
~ Ralph Wald Emerson

When I looked this quote up, I was surprised to find that there are two different attitudes toward it or meanings for it.

The first reference is to set your goals high. Another adage for it is “shoot for the stars.”

With this meaning, it’s referring to setting high goals and strive toward them. Or, you might already have high goals, but the likelihood of reaching them are slim. Don’t let that stop you. Go for it. Even if you’re told it’s not probable. Do your very best to become whatever it is you want to become.

This is the meaning I always thought of for this quote. And according to my research, this is what Ralph Waldo Emerson had in mind.

The second meaning is more modern and more cynical. It refers to attaching yourself to successful people, even famous people in order to reach your goals through them, through your association with them.

It figures the more modern meaning is cynical. Instead of being inspirational, it’s negative: use others to your own advantage.

Which do you think it refers to?

Source:
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Hitch+your+wagon+to+a+star

NEED HELP WITH YOUR STORY?

Whether you need help with children’s ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s 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 idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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