Feb 11

Picture Books – What Grabs an Editor

Grabbing an Editor

I attended a ‘live’ two hour writing workshop through SCBWI: Hook, Line and Sinker: What Catches the Editor’s Eye with Scholastic editor Natalia Remis.

It was an amazing workshop and not only was the information excellent, the editor gave the first page of the attendees’ manuscripts a critique!

I try to keep up with the children’s book industry, but online you get this opinion and that opinion and the other opinion.

There’s quite a difference hearing it directly from someone in the trenches.

Okay, so let me get to it. I took lots and lots of notes.

The Business End

The BIG publishing houses, like scholastic, want to sell to the mass market.

When Scholastic contracts a manuscript, they’re thinking of the trade side: book fairs in the school system, book clubs, Target, and so on.

This means the manuscripts they sign must appeal to the needs of the schools whether in NYC or Arkansas or California – across the nation. In other words, to the mass market.

So, what do the publishers want?

They want stories that kids will want.

How Do Publishing Houses (Editors) Find the Books?

1. Editors acquire books from authors they already have under contract.

They love having a proven author who keeps cranking out books. It takes some of the unknown out of the profit/loss equation.

2. They acquire books from agents they trust. Remis strongly advised that authors be agented.

3. They do some leg work. They actually look at writing blogs.

If Remis likes the writing style of the blog, even if it’s not a children’s author’s blog, she will reach out to the blogger and see if s/he’d be interested in writing for children.

This should be a wake-up call for authors who don’t think they need an author website or a blog.

YOU DO!

4. A smaller percentage is from unagented authors.

The PB Market

Picture books are getting harder and harder to publish.

The audience is shrinking.

By second-grade, kids are reading chapter books. So, picture books must be written for a younger child. This means the text must be geared toward a younger child.

Writing for younger children isn’t as easy as it sounds. A lot goes into it, including:

– An age-appropriate storyline
– One point-of-view
– Age-appropriate words
– Tight writing to keep it under 800 words
– Grabbing and engaging enough for a child to want to read it over and over and over
– It has to be written with the illustrations in mind

What Makes a Book Appealing to an Editor?

This is the thing every children’s picture book author wants to know.

What’s the magic formula?

The choice to take on a book is a personal one for an editor. Remis said a colleague chose a manuscript based on ONE line in the story. Another chose a book because of an illustration in the manuscript.

She likes vintage stories, particularly stories about New York City.

So, how do you get to the heart of an editor?

1. The very first step is to make you and your book visible.

a. Attend conferences and workshops.

Publishing is tough. The more people you know the better. Kind of like the who’s connected to who.

Like with the workshop I attended.

The editor is allowing the attendees to send in their PB manuscripts. This is a HUGE deal! Because of the workshop, she’ll actually look at the manuscripts.

b. Research agents and book publishers. Know which ones are a good match for your book. Know what they publish. And submit to the right ones.

Remis emphasized this with a story of a cook book manuscript someone keeps sending her. Even after she told the author that she only handles children’s books, the author keeps sending it back to her.

c. Look at recently published books in the library that are similar to your niche. Look at the imprint for the publisher. That house might be a good fit.

d. Write the infamous query letter.

This is where you need to know what the publishing house publishes because you should mention why you think your book will be a good fit for that house or agent.

Let the agent or editor know you’ve done your homework.

2. Write a strong story.

a. Keep the length of your manuscript in mind. Picture books aren’t long.

The typical PB is 32 pages, but two or three of those pages are for the front matter (title page, copyright, dedication). And, there is possibly backmatter to consider (author bio, reading comprehension, etc.). So, you have around 24 – 28 pages of actual story and illustrations to work with.

Every word in your story must be chosen carefully. Use simple and engaging words and sentences.

Remis did note that if you just can’t get the story within 28 pages, you can go for 40 pages. Those are the TWO options.

While picture books do come in 24 pages, 48, and 64 pages, the standard is 32.

b. Write knowing that illustrations will help tell the story. They enhance the story and fill in the missing pieces as picture books are a marriage of text and illustrations.

c. You need a plot with the elements of a good story.

This means you need a beginning (opens), a middle (explores), and an ending (resolves).

You also need conflict in your story. There must be an emotional journey for the protagonist and the reader.

What needs to be solved? This is a must. And, it must be known at the beginning of the story. Get to it quick.

In just about all the manuscript critiques she gave, the conflict, the reason for the story was missing.

Remis suggests using a dummy story board or a similar method to see how the story can be laid out.

You’ll also be able to see which pages have too much text or too little and get a better idea of how it flows. It will help you give your story balance.

Another tip she gave is to pick a book from a book store, like Barnes and Noble, and type it out word for word.

This is also a copywriting trick. It teaches the brain to write good text.

This is just a writing exercise though. You cannot use it as your own story – that would be plagiarism.

d. You need a satisfying ending, but you don’t want to tell the reader what to think. Leave room for kids to imagine. Let them have their own take-away.

3. Read your story out loud.

As you read it, watch for where you pause or stumble.

4. Read your story to children and watch their reactions.

– Where do you lose your audience?
– Where are they most engaged?
– How long did each page take?
– How did it flow?

Watch for pausing, stumbling, and unnecessary text that slows the story down.

Remis said she occasionally reads to groups of school children to see their reactions to stories she’s working on. She ends up revising the story as she’s reading to the kids. She’ll eliminate words, sentences, even pages.

Picture books are meant to be read out loud. Your story must read well out loud.

Couple of Odds and Ends

1. Page Breaks and Numbers: Remis said you can supply page breaks or numbers when submitting your manuscript. But be careful here. Check the guide lines of the publisher or agent you’re submitting to.

2. Social Media: A social media platform can be a big deal. It’s important for young adult authors, but it’s a good idea for picture book authors too.

If a publisher knows you have a nice size following on Facebook, Instagram, or other popular social network, they’ll feel more comfortable that you can help sell your books.

Problems to Watch For

1. Don’t forget about illustrations: The first problem Remis mentioned is lots of authors forget there will be illustrations. The picture book must be visually interesting. You must be able to see how the text and illustrations will work together.

The dummy story board should help with this also.

To get an idea of how it works, study PBs focusing on the illustrations. See how they add to the story.

Leave room for the illustrator to fill in the blanks.

Remis recommended “Picture This” by Molly Bang. It shows how a PB works.

2. Don’t add a lot of Art Notes.

3. Don’t tell the editor or illustrator how to layout the book.

4. Don’t talk down to kids.

5. Don’t tell your story – show it.

6. Don’t overdo the dialogue.

7. Make the protagonist child-like (young, like the reader). Write for the young reader. This includes the dialogue and the storyline – keep it age appropriate.

8. If you’re not a skilled illustrator, don’t submit a picture book with illustrations.

There was a five-minute Q&A at the end and I asked this question:

Should your protagonist be older than the targeted reader?

Answer: Children do like to read-up, but the protagonist should be around the same age as the reader. A 12-year-old is too old as a protagonist in a picture book.

My take-away for this is if you’re writing for the four to eight-year-old market, the protagonist should be eight, possibly nine You don’t want to make the protagonist under eight because then the story won’t appeal to the older end of your market, the eight-year-old reader.

This was an eye-opening workshop.

Next week, I’ll go over the acquisitions process according to Remis. It’s very interesting stuff.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether 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!

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Jan 07

Walking Through Walls Book Trailer

Middle-grade fantasy adventure story

Walking Through Walls was honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.

Set in 16th century China, this middle-grade fantasy adventure is about 12-year-old Wang. Not liking to work, it really bugs him that he has to help his father tend the wheat fields. Thinking he can bypass work and struggle (and become rich and famous), Wang sets off on an amazing adventure to find the Eternals, a legendary group of mystics who can perform magic!

The story is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

You can find out how the story came about at:
Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

As book marketing is an essential element of an author’s life, here’s a book trailer I created for my book. I’d love to know what you think of it in the comments!

If you’d like to order your own copy of Walking Through Walls, please go to:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/walking-through-walls-karen-cioffi/1104289817
4RV Publishing (the publisher): http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/calderwood—cioffi.php

I removed the Amazon link – find out why you should buy directly from book publishers:

As this site is for those wanting to become a children’s author and those wanting to learn about writing for children, I think it’s important you know that supporting book publishers is essential.

Distributors like Amazon may be convenient, but buying directly from the publisher puts more money in the publisher’s pocket and in the author’s pocket. This MATTERS!

And with Amazon allowing third-party sellers, you don’t know who you’re buying a book from or where they got that book. Some of them sell for well under retail and others sell for a crazy amount above retail.

Why not support book publisher and authors and buy directly from the publishers. The cost is about the same, so please support the book industry!

Children's ghostwriter

Whether 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!

Dec 23

Publishing Your Book the Hybrid Way

Book publishing with the hybrid publisherAs with everything, the publishing industry has changed. With the difficulty in getting a traditional contract through queries and proposals and the hands-on learning and doing of ‘real’ self-publishing, there is a third option: Hybrid publishing.

So, what exactly is hybrid publishing?

According to Ingram Spark, “Hybrid publishing combines some elements of traditional publishing with those of independent publishing.” (1)

But, that definition is kind of vague as there are different formats within hybrid publishing.

The partnerships

There are some hybrid companies that offer publishing assistance. These companies have expertise in the arena, whether it be editorial, design, marketing, or all aspects. This type of publishing has a form of gatekeeping to ensure quality. They will NOT print just anything.

While an upfront fee is required, it’s more of a partnership. These companies work with you. They’re vested in your book’s success. They make money from sales just like you do.

The pay to play companies

Then there are the hybrid companies that will publish anything as long as the author pays for it. There is no quality control. Back when, vanity presses were noted for this. These companies don’t care if you sell a single book, they already got their money.

And, there are variations in between. So, pretty much, any company that helps you get your manuscript published and turned into an ebook or paper book for a fee is a hybrid company.

It really is confusing.

In fact, a while after I published this article, I received a query to ghostwrite for a hybrid company. Looking into the company, I found that the author paid 100% of the publishing fees and the service took a percentage of each copy sold besides that. My first thought was how could they call themselves a hybrid – they’re a full fledged vanity press.

It really is confusing.

Even if you’re offed 100% royalties, be suspicious.

Publisher’s Weekly has an excellent in-depth article on hybrid publishing. It’s definitely worth the read if you’re think of paying to help get your book published: The Indie Author’s Guide to Hybrid Publishing

And, publishing expert Jane Friedman offers great advice on How to Evaluate a Hybrid Publisher

What they all have in common

Before you can think about self-publishing a book, no matter what route, you need to write a story. And, since your name will be on that story as author, you should write a quality story, one that you’ll be proud of.

I can help with that. I’m a children’s ghostwriter and can turn your idea into a publishable story. Or, if you have a story, but it needs a lot of work, I can rewrite it for you.

If you’d like to discuss a project, shoot me an email at kcioffiventrice@gmail.com

You can also check the Contact Page for my phone number if you’d prefer discussing it over the phone.

References
(1) Publishing Options: Traditional, Hybrid, Self-Publishing

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Nov 05

Self-Publishing – 3 Perks and 4 Warnings

Self-publishing

It seems the majority of people are self-publishing. With the limited traditional publishing opportunities, it only makes sense.

In addition to the difficulty in getting a traditional contract there are at least three perks to going Indie.

1. You are in complete control.
2. Getting your book published and available for sales will take a fraction of the time it will take a traditional publisher to get it out into the world.
3. You’ll make a lot more per book sale than through the traditional route.

All seems good, right?

Well, it can be. But, while self-publishing brings the brass ring within the reach of just about everyone, there are some things to watch out for.

Four things to watch out for when self-publishing:

1. You are in complete control.

While this is also a perk, it can be a pitfall. You don’t have the luxury of a publishing house editors, book designers, and illustrators. This means it’s all up to you.

Do you know what’s involved in producing a quality book?

If not, do your research.

You might want to start out with learning how to write if you’re not already a writer. Read books, take classes, do whatever you need to in order to write right. Keep in mind that this includes learning about revisions, editing, and proofing.

While self-publishing is gaining ground by leaps and bounds, there are still those books that are poorly written and published that weigh the arena down.

While writing a quality book is paramount, the book’s design and cover are also crucial.
Some questions to consider might be:

– Do you know what the front matter is?
– Are you qualified to create your own cover?
– What about the back cover design and copy?
– Do you know about interior layout design?
– Do you know how to properly format your book for publishing?
– Do you know how to upload your book to the service that will print it?
– Do you know you need to write a synopsis and description for your book?
– What about effective keywords and categories for your book?

There are more elements involved, but this will get you started.

If it seems overwhelming or is too time consuming get outside help. I recently hired someone on Fiverr to format and upload my book. I debated between publishing with CreateSpace and IngramSpark and ended up going with CreateSpace.

There are plenty of services and freelancers available to help you get your book published.

2. It’s most often not a slam-dunk.

I’ve had a couple of clients approach me saying they want a book that Disney will want to turn into a movie. I laugh to myself because so do I. After I find the humor in it, I tell those clients that there are no guarantees in books.

You must have realistic expectations when self-publishing. The market is flooded with books. It’s true that some books take off, but this is not the norm. Again, be realistic.

The best thing you can do is create a book you can be proud of and learn how to market it. The first part of book marketing is creating an author platform.

For more on this, read my article: What is an Author Platform?

3. You don’t have a hook.

With so many books available and more and more coming on the market each day, you need to find your hook. Simply writing a good book may not be enough. You need to let the reader know why they should buy your book. What makes your book different.

“Sensational writing, words that jump from a page, a heart stopping plot and real recipes from your grandmother in a village in Sardinia, where many people live to be 100, are all potentially unique aspects of a book, which will help you find readers.” (1)

If you don’t think your book has anything unique, take a closer look. Think of an accident witnessed by 10 people. Each one will have a different account of what happened. Even if only somewhat different, there will be differences.

Find the unique element in your book.

4. You’re not familiar with book marketing.

Even if you’re traditionally published, you MUST promote your books.

Book marketing begins with your author platform and the foundation of this platform is your author website.

Along with this, you’ll need to be on social media and you’ll need to create an email list.

While this may all seem like a lot of effort, if you want to make you and your books visible to potential buyers, if you want to sell books, it’s necessary.

If you need help with the first part of your book writing journey, I’m a children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. Let me take your story for a spin. Contact me today at kcioffiventrice@gmail.com

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Reference:
(1) 5 Horrible Mistakes Self-Published Authors Make

Articles on writing for children

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips to Help You Avoid the ‘I Want It Now Syndrome’

Writing with Clarity

Writing a Book – To Publish Traditionally or Self-Publish

Oct 29

What is an Author Platform and How Do You Build It?

Building Your Author Platform

Building a writing career can be a long, and at times, difficult road. And, many new authors think writing itself is the tough part, but that’s not really the case.

Writing a story that you intend to publish traditionally or self-publish has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can create an outline as kind of a GPS to get you from point A to point B. There are steadfast rules and tricks to help you complete your writing journey.

There is an end to that particular writing journey.

With book marketing, that’s not the way it works.

Marketing your book is the roll-up-your-sleeves part of a writing career. It’s the ongoing job of creating and building your online presence, your author platform. And, the rules and tricks of the game are in constant motion, always changing.

While many of the rules may change, there is one constant in your author platform, and that’s visibility.

It should be noted that the definition of an author platform encompasses multiple genres and freelance writers, and even marketers who create and sell information products, so it may vary, depending on who is providing the definition.

But, in regard to your author platform, web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review Jane Friedman notes that editors and agents are “looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.”

So, the bare-bottom basics of an author platform are: visibility, authority, and proven reach.

Breaking Down the Three Basic Elements of an Author Platform

1. Visibility

This is the promotional aspect of marketing. It’s the element of becoming known in your particular niche and building on that presence.

With online marketing strategies and Google’s updates always on the move, the face of creating visibility has changed. Today, visibility is created through ongoing connections and relationships with your target market, your audience.

It’s also about creating engagement on your blog site and your social networks. This means Likes, Follows, Shares, Retweets, Favorites, and so on.

2. Authority

Authority is built through ongoing communication. As an author you need to provide valuable information to your readers. Providing this information on a regular basis establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Another newer factor in the mix is social proof. Numbers speak and boost your authority.

What’s meant by this is the number of social media followers you have and engagement, your website traffic along with visitor engagement.

3. Your Reach

Elements one and two of your author platform help take care of number three, your reach. By using effective marketing strategies to create an online presence, such as building a website and creating your authority through ongoing information/article marketing, your reach is automatically broadened.

Other strategies you can use to further broaden your reach include:

• Social media marketing
• Blogging regularly on your own site
• Guest blogging
• Joint ventures
• Presenting webinars
• Presenting workshops
• Offering ecourses

Today, your author platform is about what you can offer your audience. It’s about creating content that’s engaging and/or valuable enough for others to share. It’s not about what you’re selling.

Providing ongoing ‘wanted or needed’ information builds a relationship. In the marketing arena a general rule of thumb was to offer 80 percent free, valuable information and 20 percent promotion. Now, it’s recommended to offer 90 percent free, valuable information and 10 percent promotion.

It’s this ongoing author/reader relationship that will build your author platform and help sell your books, other products, and services.

Reference:
http://janefriedman.com/2012/03/13/author-platform-definition/

Be a children's writerBeing 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 250+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

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Please Share!
Sep 17

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Writing Fiction Before I get into whether secondary characters are important or not, what is a secondary character?

A secondary character is any character in the story aside from the protagonist (main character) and the antagonist (villain or force in opposition to the protagonist).

Just a side note here, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a character. It can be an internal emotional or mental problem. Or, it can be an external force, such as a category 4 hurricane that the protagonist must prepare for or fight to survive.

It’s important to mention also that there are two categories or ‘subclasses’ of secondary characters:

1. The supporting character.

A supporting character is a substantial part of your story. She or he is part of the protagonist’s life and is usually there throughout the story helping move the story forward.

An example of this is Chen from “Walking Through Walls”. Wang is the protagonist and Chen is his best friend. Wang bounces many of his problems off Chen and Chen advises him. Chen is the voice of reason and calm while Wang ‘wants what he wants’ and is impatient.

This friendship is an essential part of the story. It’s part of what makes Wang choose one course of action over another in the end.

Sometimes supporting characters can have their own subplot. Using “Walking Through Walls” again, Chen was chosen by his village to become an Eternal apprentice. His village was invaded by neighboring warriors and his younger sister was abducted.

Supporting characters can be a catalyst for the direction the story takes.

Chen’s backstory also plays a part in the direction Wang takes in his character arc.

Along with this, supporting characters are essential to a book series.

Think of just about any series on TV (old or new): The Big Bang Theory; Superman; NCIS; Castle; The X-Files; even the MythBusters. You expect to see the supporting cast. You’d be disappointed if you didn’t.

2. The minor character.

A minor character is someone who may make a brief appearance in the story or is there in the background throughout. They give the story more authenticity and dimension. There will most likely be various minor characters throughout a book.

For example, in “Walking Through Walls” Wang and Chen are in an apprenticeship with other students. These students help create a dimensional world for the story. But, while they exist and are mentioned here and there, they aren’t essential to the story.

A great example of a minor character is the taxi driver, Sylvester, from the 1947 movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”. Sylvester was only in a couple of scenes, but he was memorable while adding nothing more than humor to those particular scenes.

Summing it Up

Getting back to the title question of whether supporting characters are important to stories, they are. They are an essential part of every story.

Sources:
http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall10/kane_amanda/character_types.htm
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/how-to-write-effective-supporting-characters
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/what-is-a-minor-character-understanding-the-minor-characters-role

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. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Articles on writing for children

4 Writing Tips on Using Descriptions

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The Front Matter – Before the Story Text Begins

Sep 18

Writing – 6 Essential Steps to Publication

Writing for publication

There are a number of articles and posts discussing whether it’s important to have a degree in writing in order to be successful in your writing career. The articles that I’ve read all agree that it is not necessary. But, there are at least 6 essential steps you will need to take to reach the golden ring of traditional publication.

The first three steps are important to both traditional and self-publishing!

1.  Learn the craft of writing

While it’s not essential to have a degree in writing, it is essential that you learn the craft.

You can obtain this knowledge through a number of avenues, such as:

a.    Become a part of a coaching program or club. Just make sure the instructor or coach has the necessary credentials to teach or guide.
b.    Research blogs and sites that offer instructional articles on the genre you are writing in. You can also find articles through the article directories.
c.    Attend writing conferences. Even if you can’t go in person, or can’t afford to go, there are a number of free online conferences that offer great workshops, networking, and even pitches to publishers. One such conference is the Muse Online Writers Conference.
d.    Join a critique group that has new and experienced writers. Critique groups are a great way to learn the ropes. The experienced writers will provide a kind of one-on-one tutoring. Through the critiques you receive you’ll begin to notice your common errors and how to correct them. Through the critiques you give, you’ll be able to pick up on errors much quicker. All this will help you to hone your craft and become a confident writer.
e.    Read books about writing, self-editing, and books in the genre you are writing. Study these books.

2. Write and keep writing

Remember the old expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ It’s important to make time to write every week, whether it’s daily or specific days, or even if you have to squeeze it into your schedule. The more you write, the more comfortable you will feel about writing.

3. Read your work, proofread your work, self-edit your work, revise your work…repeat

This is where you apply the information you’ve reaped from Step 1. After you think it’s ‘really’ good, submit it to your critique group. Then repeat Step 3. When you think it’s perfect you’re ready for Step 4.

4. Submit your work

In this step you can take two paths:

a.    Submit your work to an experienced editor. This is the path almost all writers will advise you to take. The editor is trained to spot things that you and you’re critique group will not. Yes, it will be an expense, but there are some reasonable and experienced editors out there that you can take advantage of.
b.    If you cannot afford an editor, be sure to carefully read a book about self-editing, print your manuscript out and go over it with a fine tooth comb. When you feel confident that it’s as good as you can get it, start submitting it to publishing companies and/or agents.

5. Read publishers’ guidelines carefully

Along with reading them carefully, you need to follow them carefully. Publishers have more submissions than they can handle, if your submission doesn’t meet their guidelines it would be highly unlikely it will avoid the trash pile.

5A. Do your self-publishing research

If you’re self-publishing and aren’t sure how to get your book published and distributed, do some research. A lot of these companies offer packages so be careful. Find out exactly what they’ll be doing for you. And, be leery of marketing packages. Usually they’re a waste of money. You’re better off learning the marketing ropes yourself and jumping in.

6. Persevere

It’s not necessarily the best writer who gets published and has a successful writing career…it’s the writer who perseveres. Writing can be a long and arduous road and is usually filled with a great deal of rejection. But, if you work toward your goal, learn your craft, and keep moving forward, you have what it takes to become published.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Why Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Children’s Book is a Good Idea
Writing to Get Published – 5 Power Tips
Writing for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn your story into a publishable and saleable book.

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

Jan 22

Learning to Write for Children – It’s More Than Just A,B,C

Writing for ChildrenI have been writing since childhood: poems, short stories, even songs. I never thought of publishing my work or making it a career until around 2006.

Not knowing any better, I thought it would be easy.

I felt comfortable writing and always seemed to be able to think of something to write about.

Then I started the process of actually writing children’s books with the intent of having them published. This opened another world, one filled with road blocks and rejection letters and a lot of hard work.

While I did minor in English Literature in college it had been many years prior and it was not the background specifically needed in writing for children.

To write for children you need to know techniques such as the Core of Threes and having the protagonist solve the problem, not the parent or grandparent. You have to know showing is a must, but telling must be limited. You need to have the right sentence structure along with good grammar and punctuation. Your dialogue must be age appropriate and you must watch out for blind spots in your writing. You need to understand and utilize words such as tighten, good voice, focus, point of view, hook…it goes on and on and on.

And, you need to know what children’s editors are looking for.

So, how do you learn all the information needed to write for children, especially if you don’t want to get a degree in children’s literature or are unable to enroll in a school specifically geared toward this subject?

The answer is the internet. Sounds easy, right?

Well, think again.

I’ve taken several college courses long distance and I can tell you that learning a subject in a classroom is much easier.

And learning on your own, using the internet is even more difficult and very time consuming.

First, there are thousands of sites and blogs that have information you need. Just use common sense and be a little careful as you want to make sure the information you’re reading is valid. The time spent searching this needed information is so great it can very easily keep you from actually writing.

So, what can you do to ease into writing for children?

1. Your first order of business is to join a writer’s group where there are new and seasoned people in the business of writing who are willing and able to help. This is also a good place to network.

2. You also need to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – you can get great tips and advice there.

3. Next, you should join a children’s writing critique group.

4. If you are able, you should make it a priority to attend a children’s writing conference – online and/or offline.

5. There are also a number of sites that offer free videos, webinars, teleseminars, and teleconferences,  take advantage of as many as you can.

6. Also, check out online courses from Gotham Writers Workshop and/or the Institute of Children’s Literature.

7. Another source is editors, publishers and agents’ blogs. Often, you will get great tips and information.

8. Don’t forget about children’s writers’ blogs, like this one. They have tons of valuable tips to writing for children.

9. Read, read, read. Read about children’s writing and read children’s books. Well, don’t just read them, study them, learn from them. Try to figure out what makes them work.

10. Persevere. It’s not always the best writers who succeed, it’s the writers who persevere.

There are also a couple of helpful books such as “The Little, Brown Essential Handbook,” and “The Children’s Writer’s Word Book.”

The world of children’s writing can feel overwhelming, but it can also be very rewarding.

Remember to pace yourself. Create a time management plan and prioritize. With hard work and perseverance you’ll be writing stories soon enough.

Be a children's writerBeing 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 250-page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.