Jan 23

How to Keep Your Writing Moving Forward

Writing Tips
Contributed by Regina Montana
Ever get stuck thinking of what to write next? Ever afraid the next idea just won’t come?

Well, here are two ideas to release you, dear writer, from the stress of what to write next or how to get your protagonist from point A to point B.
1. Get out of yourself and learn a new skill
I’ve mentioned this numerous times to friends and family, I have always wanted to learn the organ.  I have very basic piano skills that I learned as a teenager.  I can play a simple piece as long as there are just a few sharps and flats.  So, the opportunity recently arose for me to learn the organ.  

How could I refuse? My pastor said I could practice on our chapel’s small electric organ.  In return, I would try out my skills before mass this summer while people are entering and exiting the church.  So I would just provide some uplifting music before the services began.  

I would have almost 6 months to get my skills up to par.  It is said that when we try different things, we often hone our skills in our target area, read “writing ability.”  As I write this blog post, I await my first organ lesson next week.  I will keep you posted as to how it progresses.  
2. Volunteer.  Do one small thing for someone else
In his book Life is Messy, author Matthew Kelly writes about what constitutes the good life.  People often think it is about achieving material success: a big house, a nice car, travel opportunities and the perfect job.  He does not discount these things unless these things are “all you’ve got.”  

The last two pages spell out the answer.  Fill your life with goodness.  So what does that consist of?  The author says that to live the good life, we must give of ourselves by being kind, generous, helpful and well, yes, good.  But good in a staggering way.  

We all have gifts waiting to be tapped.  When we use our gifts and give of ourselves, we are lifted up and get a real sense of the good life.

And, by implementing these two ideas, we can lighten up and declutter our minds by focusing on new projects and helping others.  Then, voila!  That empty space might just fill up with inspiration, and, with some luck, the perfect ending for your children’s book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regina is a children’s literature writer of poems and picture books. She has written for the ezine Kids Imagination Train, and is a member of Children’s Book Insider where she contributed two articles to, as well as a member of SCBWI.  Regina is also a teacher with a Master of Education Degree.  She has raised two children of her own and is now a grandmother of 5 who give her lots of ideas when she listens carefully.
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.
 
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Jan 16

You Are Never Too Old to be a Writer

You can start your writing career today.
I jumped into a writing career in my mid-40s. I was an assistant controller for a manufacturing company before that.

With my accounting background, writing about business and marketing was a natural fit… or so it seemed at the time.
My first gig as a freelance writer was for a company that offered human resources solutions. They had two related (sister) sites and I wrote articles for one site and rewrote them for the other.

Rewriting can be fun, but is also challenging as it’s important to have the new content pass a duplicate content checker.  

The reason for this is Google doesn’t like duplicate content on your website or your related sites.
Heath writing was soon added to the mix and it was more lucrative than the business and marketing writing. 

I supplied an allergy site with about 100 articles per month. I had to hire subcontractors to help with this project.
I also did academic rewriting and editing for health professionals.
Then I decided to add on writing for children.

It seemed like a natural addition as I had written a bedtime lullaby when my first daughter was a baby – to help her fall asleep. I turned it into a children’s bedtime picture book in 2008. 

Soon though, I was stretching myself too thin as you can imagine. That’s never a good thing for a number of reasons.

-You can’t devote the time and focus needed to a particular genre.
-You don’t have a strong platform or brand.
-And, you know the saying: Jack of all trades, master of none. This is definitely not a good thing. It should always be quality over quantity.

I had to decide what genre I would focus on. 

Focus is essential to success.

As the children’s writing really took off and grew each year, and I love to bring children on journeys, that’s the genre I chose.

And that’s how my children’s writing career got started.
Another example of never being too old to follow your dreams is a 92 client I worked with about a year ago.

I got a query from a woman who had a children’s picture book published in by Houghton Mifflin in 1988.

She had a 25,000-word middle grade story she had been submitting to agents but wasn’t getting any interest. She asked if I’d review it. After a few emails, I learned she was 92 years old! 

Ninety-two! And she was following her dream!

She inspired me.

Working and raising seven children on her own during most of their growing-up years didn’t leave room for writing, especially as she had to work. Once she was able, she got back to it, though. She wanted to publish more stories. 

After consulting with this client, she turned her middle grade into a chapter book, and I edited for her. She then self-published. I went on to review and edit several shorter stories for her. 
And there are lots of other late bloomers. 
The very successful authors listed below also started their writing careers later in life:

Toni Morrison - Age 40
Mark Twain - Age 41
J.R.R. Tolkien - Age 45
Raymond Chandler - Age 51
Annie Proulx - Age 57
Laura Ingalls Wilder - Age 65
Frank McCourt - Age 66 (1)
So, if you’re wondering if it’s too late to start writing, IT’S NOT.

If you have the desire and haven’t gotten started writing for children yet, GET STARTED TODAY!
Reference:
(1) https://bookstr.com/article/10-hugely-successful-authors-who-got-their-start-later-in-life/
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.
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Jan 09

The Domino Chain Reaction and Your Words

The Writing Chain Reaction
So many things inspire me; the most recent is a video I saw on LinkedIn.

It’s about chain reactions, and I immediately thought of writing.

I found the original video on YouTube and have it here. It’s only 2 ½ minutes and super-interesting.

As the demonstrator (Stephen Morris) mentioned, if he had 29 dominos, the last one would be as tall as the Empire State Building!

WOW!

It’s minding boggling thinking about the actual size of the initial domino that caused such a powerful chain reaction.

So how does this relate to writing?
As writers, what we write matters. 

Words matter.

You trigger the initial event by writing your story. Once it’s released into the world, it creates energy; and each time a reader reads it, more and more energy is released. The domino chain reaction is underway.

This is the superpower writers have.
As a children’s writer, you never know how your story will spark something in a child. 

It could be sparking an interest in the environment, maybe in history, or astronomy, or kindness, or even peace. 

It’s that initial event or trigger than can lead that reader on to greater things.

Or, it may be a nonfiction book on creating a better life, or a better world.

Again, your words can become the trigger that sparks better things.

That’s the power of a story. 

The possibilities are limitless, so use your superpower wisely!
Want to be that spark in a child’s imagination or life?
Become the author of your own children’s book.

Be the trigger in a writing-reading domino chain reaction.
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.

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Jan 02

Amazon Book Categories for Greater Visibility

Book Marketing and Book Categories
As most authors are self-publishing today, it’s important for authors to know about Amazon’s book categories.

When you’re uploading your book to Amazon, you’re able to choose specific categories for your book to be list under. This is something you need to take advantage of.

Do your research and determine which categories best fit your book.

If you’re having a service upload your book, you should make sure you know what categories the service is using.

Do you know what categories your book is listed under with Amazon?

It’s a crucial element of your book marketing and book sales, and you should use as many categories as you’re allowed. With Amazon, it’s currently ten.

But, for reasons unknown, it seems a while back, Amazon made it more difficult to see the 10 categories you listed your book under – they only visibly list the first three. 

According to Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur, you can now only see 3 of the categories you chose when you uploaded your book.

Categories matter.

According to Geoff Affleck, "selecting the best Amazon book categories is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of publishing and one of the easiest to do. Most self-published authors and professional publishers give little thought to the category placement."

So, what exactly do categories do for your book?

Think of them as a step above keywords. You might think of categories as the house that holds the keywords.

Suppose you’ve written a children’s fiction picture books that focuses on a child owing a pet – the responsibility and caring involved. 

The categories might be:
Books / Fiction / Children’s Book 

The keywords might be:
Picture books
Responsibility
Caring for a pet
Pet ownership

This example should help you get the idea.

While Amazon buyers don't usually browse books by categories, if you're book is selling well, Amazon takes note of the categories your book is in. Their algorithm will give you a higher ranking for that category which means your book will be suggested to more customers.

It's kind of a popularity contest.

This is why keeping track of your book's categories is important.

It shouldn’t be a create and leave situation.

Suppose a new category opens up that's more focused on your book's subject matter. You would not doubt want to swap it out for a category that's less connected.

Or, maybe you're keeping track of other books in your subject matter and they're doing very well; you might want to use their categories.

Knowing what categories are getting traction and visibility will give you the opportunity to use the categories to bring more attention / visibility to your books.  

So to address the problem of only seeing 3 of your listed categories, Chesson suggests a free service from Nerdy Book Girl that allows you to see them all. All you need is to input your ISBN or ASIN.

While this article focuses on Amazon, you should follow the same marketing strategy for any other aggregator or distributor you list your book with.

The Author-Writer Platform
Along with being a children's author and ghostwriter, I'm an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Build Your Author/Writer Platform is a 4-week e-class that's in-depth and interactive. It covers all the tools you’ll need to build visibility and traffic, and boost sales.

CLICK THE LINK BELOW to check out all it includes:
http://wow-womenonwriting.com/classroom/KarenCioffi_WebsiteTrafficInboundMarketing.php 

If you want to check out other classes I offer, check out:
https://thewritingworld.com/your-author-platform/

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Dec 26

3 Absolute Must-Nots in Writing for Children

It seems there are still new children’s authors or wannabe authors who don’t take the time to learn about how to write for children… at least to learn the basics.

The absolute must-nots when writing for children:

The Picture Book Cliffhanger

A recent client of mine was for a picture book rewrite project with the ending missing, so there was a bit of ghosting involved. The intended age group was four to eight.

I rewrote the story and added a ‘satisfying’ ending with a takeaway only to learn the client wanted it to be a cliffhanger and didn’t want a takeaway.

Well, kind of a cliffhanger. The client wanted the ending missing.

No loose ends tied up. No satisfying ending. No full character arc. No full story arc.

This was a first for me.

Not wanting a takeaway is one thing, but not wanting a satisfying ending for a young children’s book doesn’t make sense.

The story was to leave the reader to guess what the author had in mind for the ending or create their own. 

The author’s intent was to create a series of cliffhangers motivating the reader to purchase the next picture book.

I’m not sure if the author intended to abruptly end the next book in the series, but I think so.

I tried my best to help the client understand that a young children’s book needs all the elements of a ‘good’ story, especially when seeking a traditional publishing contract.

I get that in self-publishing a lot of new authors do whatever they want (even though they should produce a quality book), but it’s a different ball game when going the traditional route.

The Perfect Story World

I don’t get too many of this type of author, but it came up in another recent project.

This scenario is when the author doesn’t want any significant conflict in the story. No real stakes involved.

-No swarm of bees to block a path the protagonist must get through.
-No ferocious fire breathing dragon blocking the entrance to a cave the protagonist must get into.
-No dangling from a cliff before being rescued.

The author also doesn’t want the characters, even the villain, to have any bad traits.

-No evil Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes nemesis).
-No evil Joker or the Penguin (Batman’s nemesis).
-No evil Lex Luthor (Superman’s nemesis).

This type of story is sugar-coated.

Instead of a roller coaster that goes up and down, where the rider has to hold on tight, this type of story is the stationary horse on the carousel, no holding on needed, no real movement involved.

You always want your story to be the one that the reader is motivated to hold onto, motivated to turn the pages. You want your story to go up and down.

Hitting the Reader Over the Head

Most of my clients have a specific goal for their story. They want to send a message to a child. They know exactly what they want the takeaway to be. 

A number of stories have the bullying theme, but interestingly that’s eased off. Now I get more requests for the inclusion theme, the standing up for yourself theme, and the being kind theme.

Some new authors think they have to hit the reader over the head with their message. They blatantly want to tell the reader how the main character grew because he was kind, or stood up for himself, or included someone different into her group.

Hitting the reader over the head with the story’s message is frowned upon. The story should convey the message subtly. The reader will pick up on it.

I hope these three absolute must-nots in kid’s writing help you on your children’s writing journey.
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.

Please Share
Dec 19

Writer’s Block – What Can You Do?

Got Writer's Block?
Contributed by Regina Montana

Just about every writer faces the inevitable: writer’s block.

You stare at the page and nothing comes. It can be debilitating and depressing for the beginning writer, but not just for them. The blank page stares back and dares writers at all stages of their career to fill it up, but with what? 

I would like to make the following suggestions that others have tried and found to be quite helpful.

1.	Take a walk. It’s amazing how a solitary hike or walk in nature can help the imagination run wild. When there’s no pressure, writers are free to let their thoughts roam where they will. You can take in all the sights and sounds around you and invite the Muse. I have even asked my main character for advice as I’m walking. What will you do next? How will you solve the problem you’re facing? 

2.	Change genres.  If you’re writing a picture book, try writing a poem or non-fiction article for a children’s magazine. It helps to lessen the pressure on your brain to let your thoughts change gears for a while. What stirs your imagination? What kind of animals do you find interesting? Do you have a green thumb? Try writing a free verse poem about the geraniums you planted that look beautiful.

3.	Try your hand at painting. I actually found myself transformed as I took out some acrylics and water colors and decided I would sketch illustrations for two poems I wrote. It didn’t matter that they were not great. I enjoyed seeing the bird I wrote about take shape and even got a few compliments when I shared my drawings.  I read an interesting quotation about how trying other forms of art can help inspire creativity, get the juices flowing and flex one’s creative muscle.  

4.	Pick up that guitar you used to play. I learned to play the piano as a teenager and, despite my very basic knowledge, I love to sit down and play a few tunes when the moment arises. I now have the opportunity to learn the organ which has been a lifelong dream. I met a music teacher and she has inspired me to pursue this path. I will be able to practice on our church organ with the permission of my pastor. Maybe I’ll be better able to hear my characters talking to me and telling me the path they want to take.   

5.	So do not despair. Here are a few memorable quotations for Overcoming a Creative Block

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. You cannot intellectualize creativity. You can think about something before or after – but not during.
—	Ray Bradbury

Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.      
—	Isabel Allende

Hope these tips help you when the inevitable bout of writer's block hits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regina is a children’s literature writer of poems and picture books. She has written for the ezine Kids Imagination Train, and is a member of Children’s Book Insider where she contributed two articles to, as well as a member of SCBWI.  Regina is also a teacher with a Master of Education Degree.  She has raised two children of her own and is now a grandmother of 5 who give her lots of ideas when she listens carefully.

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.


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Dec 12

What’s Your Takeaway?

The children's writing takeaway.
Most of my clients know what they want the takeaway of their book to be. 

It may be to demonstrate kindness, overcoming fear, being a good friend, learning responsibility, learning about conservation, becoming self-confident, learning coping strategies, realizing the importance of family…

Now and then, though, I still get clients who think a list of events constitutes a good story. And they have a tough time understanding the elements that need to go into making a story work, such as character arc, story arc, and plot. They also don’t understand that a children’s book should have a takeaway.

What is a book’s takeaway?

According to Merriam Webster, a takeaway is “a main point or key message to be learned or understood from something experienced or observed.”

With this in mind, the takeaway is what’s valuable in the book – the message it conveys. It’s what the reader will find memorable or worthy of remembering. 

This is important when writing for children because you want the reader to leave the book learning something, even if subconsciously. 

Examples.

Using my middle-grade fantasy, “Walking Through Walls,” the protagonist, Wang, begins as a selfish and lazy kid. His journey to become a Master Eternal, in order to become powerful and wealthy, changes him for the better.

Along with Wang becoming more than he was or better than he was, the reader can see how it came about and the value in those changes.

By the way, "Walking Through Walls" is a cross between a chapter book and a middle-grade and is a great book for the reluctant reader.

Another example is “Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch. 

The kids in Stephanie’s class copy every hairdo she creates. Finally, she outwits them and they never copy her hairdo again. 

As well as being a fun read, the takeaway in this book is teaching children about creativity, independence, self-confidence, imagination, and being daring. It could very well inspire them to the same actions.

So, as you’re writing your children’s story, think of the takeaway. What message do you want to instill in the reader?
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.
  
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Nov 28

Top 3 Draws of Traditionally Publishing Children’s Books

Children's Books and Traditional Publishing - Why?

While most of my children’s ghostwriting clients go the self-publishing route, about a quarter of them (maybe a little less) take on traditional publishing.

Why go traditional? What’s the draw?

The first reason is budget.

When dealing with children’s books, many authors don’t have the budget to hire an illustrator.

For a standard picture book, there are usually 12-14 interior illustrations. That’s the bare minimum. If the author wants an illustration on every page, then it’s double the amount.

If the author has a chapter book, then she’s looking at illustration for each chapter, at the very least. Thinking on the low end, if the author has 5,000 words, that should be divided into around ten chapters of about 500 words each. So that’s ten interior illustrations.

Even middle-grade books can use interior illustrations here and there, possibly for each chapter.

Granted, you can have different types of interior illustrations, such as half-pages and sketches, but it’s still an expense.

Then there are the front and back covers.

Using the illustrators I work with, the pricing ranges from $80 to $180 per interior illustration and $200+ for the front cover. Pricing is usually less for the back cover. And these illustrators are very reasonable.

I’ve had clients who have paid $10,000 and more for illustrations.

So, it’s easy to see that having to pay for illustrations can get expensive.

On the flip side, the children’s author doesn’t need to pay for illustrations with traditional publishing. The publishing house uses its own illustrators and covers the expense.

This is a huge deal and is a major draw of traditional publishing.

The second draw is the prestige and validation associated with traditional publishing.

While I’m self-published and traditionally published, let’s face it, they don’t hold the same weight. That’s just the way it is.

The primary reason for this is that a lot of self-published books aren’t professional.

With the ease of self-publishing, anyone can slap a book together without knowing how to write and put it up for sale.

These authors make it bad for authors who take the time to learn the craft of writing and create a professional book.

Although, the old stigma associated with self-publishing is easing a bit.

The third draw is it’s all done for you.

Most authors, especially the newbies, don’t know how to go about self-publishing. Having a publishing company do everything for no cost is extremely alluring.

Just keep in mind the legwork and patience involved:

A. The author needs to create a query and synopsis of the book
B. The author needs research publishers and agents that deal with the particular genre
C. The author needs to submit the manuscript
D. The author needs to wait for a bite, which is not guaranteed
E. An accepted manuscript can take 18-24 months before it’s actually published.

But aside from the work and time involved, if the author gets a book contract, she has a professional group behind her. She can rest assured she’ll have a professional book.

So, these are the top three reasons why some children’s authors prefer going the traditional path.

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 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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