May 23

Your Story Beginning

With all the information online about writing, I still get clients who start their stories with backstory, boring introductions, or with a number of characters leaving the reader in the dark as to who the protagonist is.

The beginning of your story, whether a picture book, chapter book, or middle-grade, is to provide the reader with some key information.

  1. The story should start with the protagonist.

You need to quickly establish a connection between the reader and the protagonist.

The reader needs to know at the beginning who’s taking them on the journey, who’s point-of-view they’re being privy to.

  1. Keep the beginning in the present.

Starting the story with something like:

Alicia looked at herself in the mirror as she thought about her life before. She was a hair stylist in a high-end establishment and loved her job. That is until her boss took on a partner. Things went downhill from there. Having to quit, it took her six-months to find another job. And that job was in a low-end place she swore she’d never work at.

The opening paragraph above is considered information dump. It’s there solely to let the reader know the protagonist’s past.

While some of the information may be important to the story, it shouldn’t be dumped in the beginning.

Instead, you might start it like:

“Hey, Alicia,” called Juan. “Your 3 o’clock is here. I’m sending her back.”

Alicia looked at herself in the mirror. How did this happen? What am I doing in this dead-end job?

This brings us to number three.

  1. Start your story with action.

The latter scene in number two is action related, but it doesn’t have to start with dialogue.

You might have the protagonist angry with his best friend.

Josh stood with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed as he watched Branden talking to Mia. What’s he doing talking to her? He knows I like her.

OR …

Josh stood with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed. “I saw you talking to Mia. You know I like her.”

Branden shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”

Josh got even more angry.

OR …

Max looked at the rock-climbing wall. Man, it’s high. His body tensed as he put his foot on the first rock that jutted out. He looked at the crowd that gathered in the gym to watch him. Why’d I accept this stupid challenge?

OR …

Wang tied the last bundle of wheat and hurled it into the cart. He wiped the back of his neck then pulled the cart up the hill. Looking back at his father, who leaned on his shovel, hunched over, Wang mumbled, “This is not the life for me.”

The action doesn’t have to be life or death, but it needs to let the reader get an idea of know who the protagonist is. It should give the reader something to latch onto.

Editor Mary Kole of Good Story Company said, “the underpinning of action is conflict.”

In the first and second scenarios, Josh is having a problem with his friend.

In the third scenario, Max is afraid. Maybe he’s afraid of failing, or afraid of being made fun of if he can’t climb the wall.

In the fourth scenario, Wang doesn’t want a fate like his father’s. He doesn’t want the back-breaking work and sweat of tending the wheat fields.

These are just one paragraph examples, but they should give you an idea of how to create effective beginnings for your stories.

Just remember that your story beginning should make the reader want to know what’s going on. It should motivate him turn the page.


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: 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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May 16

Common Children’s Author Mistakes, Big and Small

I watched a webinar through Children’s Book Insider (CBI) with traditionally published children’s authors Jean Daigneau and Gloria Adams. They had some very helpful tips.

One section I found interesting was:

BIG common mistakes that authors make with children’s books.

  1. The number ONE most common big mistake is a weak plot.

So, what does a weak plot mean?

No conflict, or very little.


The main character needs to have a problem. It can be internal or external, but it needs to be something that has consequences attached to it.

The conflict doesn’t need to be life or death; it may be that he figures out a way to stop a bully. Or, she figures out a way to get the bike she’s been wanting. It could even be that he was lonely and finds a friend.

It does need to be something that will get the young reader engaged.

It’s the conflict that will make the reader become invested in the main character’s journey. It’s the conflict that will motivate the reader to read to the end.

  1. The number two most common mistake is the lack of a story arc.

A story needs a full story arc. A beginning, a middle, and an end, and within that structure there needs to conflict that rises.

There also needs to be a satisfying resolution to that conflict.

This is commonly known as Freytag’s Pyramid.

The story starts on the left side of the pyramid. The action and conflict climbs up to the peak (the climax). Then it’s down the right side with falling action and the resolution.

  1. Another big mistake is the lack of a character arc.

The character needs to grow in some way.

He needs to change in some way as a result of his journey to overcome the obstacle blocking him from reaching his goal.

Maybe the character becomes kinder, happier, more confident, smarter, physically stronger, emotionally stronger, more creative, less fearsome. You get the gist.

He shouldn’t be the same person as he was at the beginning of the journey.

When you look at the character at the beginning of the story and then at the end, he needs to be different. There needs to be some kind of growth.

Some of the SMALLER mistakes or problems authors make are:

  1. Double tags.

Here’s an example:

Pete threw his fist in the air. “If he does that again, I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said.

This is a double tag.

It’s already established that Pete is the one talking because he’s noted throwing his fist in the air. The “he said” shouldn’t be included.

If you know the reader will understand who’s talking, you don’t add a dialogue tag.

  1. Picture books and illustrations.

If you’re writing a picture book, take the illustrations into account.

Write with them in mind. Leave enough room for the illustrator to be creative and bring the story to another level.

  1. Illustrator notes.

It may be tempting to try to direct the illustrator with a lot of illustrator notes, but don’t do it.

Unless it’s something that the illustrator wouldn’t know, but needs to know, don’t mention it.

An example of this:

Maybe your protagonist has a dog and you want it to be a specific breed of dog and a specific color. This is something you can note as the illustrator certainly wouldn’t know about it.

  1. Candy-coating the story.

A number of my clients don’t want anything bad to happen to the characters in the story. This is especially true of picture books.

But it’s tough to have conflict if nothing bad can happen to the characters.

The best stories, even if fantasy, have realism in them.

  1. Unsatisfying ending.

The ending of your story is important to get right.

All loose ends must be tied up. And, especially in picture books and writing for young children, the ending must be satisfying.

The reader should go away feeling good about the story.

Another important aspect of the ending is to NOT tell the reader what the message of the story is.

The take-away value of the story should be subtly conveyed through the story itself. Don’t hit the reader over the head with it

Winding this up…

A good story needs it all. It needs conflict with rising action and resolution. It needs character growth with a subtle message.

The best way to incorporate all this into your story is to read a lot of traditionally published books in the genre you’re writing. Pay attention to what makes those books work.

Children's ghostwriter

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 that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: (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!

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.

Apr 04

Is Your LinkedIn Profile Working for You?

I’m a children’s author, children’s ghostwriter and coach, and an online author platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Because of this, I pay attention to marketing.

Recently, I listened to a webinar through AWAI. It was presented by Ilise Benun, a self-marketing expert.

The topic, while a couple of years old, was on using LinkedIn as part of your marketing strategy. After listening to it, I feel the information is still pertinent today.

I like LinkedIn. Did you know it’s also a search engine for professionals?

In fact, it’s the only social media network I’ve gotten work through.

Benun started her talk with ‘word of mouth’.

For years one of the marketing tools always mentioned was word-of-mouth.

Well, according to Benun, word of mouth is passive marketing. “A euphemism for whatever comes along.”

You need to be proactive in your marketing and a key element of that strategy is to use social media. And, this is important whether you’re selling books, services, or products.

How do you use social media effectively?

While the webinar focused on LinkedIn, these tips can be applied to any platform you’re marketing yourself and your books, services, or products.

View Post

Keep in mind that the purpose of marketing on social media is to find prospects and position yourself to get them as clients or customers.

Before I go on, I’d like to distinguish between a client and a customer.

According to Small Business Chron, “Customers buy on price and value. Clients buy on experience and trust.”

I love this explanation because it’s so easy to understand.

Someone buying my book “How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book” is a customer.

Someone paying for my children’s ghostwriting services is a client.

Simple. Right? And, see how I worked in some promotion. 😊

Okay back to social media marketing on LinkedIn.

  1. Your Profile.

As mentioned, you want to find prospects, whether clients or customers, and get them to buy from you or use your services.

To do that, you need to position yourself.

What this means is you need to set yourself apart from other businesses or services that offer the same thing. You do this using your LinkedIn profile (and all your other social media profiles).

A. The title

According to Benun this is prime real estate. It should convey exactly what you want a prospect to see.

This will usually be your name unless your business is more identifiable to the public.

I’ll stray from this webinar to what Neil Patel has to say about your social media profile.

According to Patel:

B. Your username and URL.

Keep in mind that you’re creating a brand that needs to be consistent.

I admit I didn’t take care when coming up with my social media usernames.

On LinkedIn it’s Karen Cioffi-Ventrice
On Twitter it’s KarenCV.
On Facebook it’s Karen Cioffi writing for children
On Pinterest it’s Karen Cioffi

Unfortunately, once you create your username you’re stuck with it. At least that’s usually the case.

If I had to do it over, I’d be Karen Cioffi, Children’s Ghostwriter on everything.

Think it through before creating a username and be consistent throughout your branding. On mine, the only thing consistent is my first name.

My URL is the same for all networks.

C. Your profile picture.

You have a choice between your headshot and your logo.

I did a combination. I had a caricature done at a wedding and decided to use it as part of my children’s writing branding. The problem though is it’s not professional.

It looks pretty good, but he must have hiccupped when he came to my chin. So, I do need to get it touched up or get it professionally done.

Also, when using your logo, there will be instances when you need to use an actual headshot for interviews or joint ventures, so be prepared with a professional one. That’s something else I have to take care of.

Use whatever you’re most identifiable with or what you want to be identifiable with.

D. Your link.

This needs to be considered carefully. Where do you want to send prospects to?

You can send people to your landing page, your sales page, and opt-in page, or other. Whichever it is, it should be a page that will help motivate the visitor to take action.

I use my landing page as it’s kind of a sales page too and it’s consistent on all my networks.

Back to the webinar.

  1. The summary or about information.

This is where you can go into detail – depending on how many words or characters you’re allotted.

LinkedIn gives you enough to get into it, so take advantage of it.

A lot of copywriters write their summary/about in first person and some make it more personal and creative than others.

This is the place to put keywords and address what the prospect needs to convince him you’re the girl for the job.

Benun also says to include ‘expert’ if you believe you are an expert in your field. She said it makes a difference.

I recently revised my profile on LinkedIn, but don’t remember if I used the word expert. I’ll have to check it.

Also, use call-to-actions. Tell the prospect what you want her to do. And, speak directly to your best prospect and use the word ‘you’ a lot.

And, be sure to include your contact information in the summary even if it’s not clickable.

  1. Your background or cover image.

This is another important element of branding and it’s important for it to be consistent throughout your platform.

Below is my social media banner for all my networks. It’s an older version, but the colors and basics are all the same:

I chose the colors specifically and created the design with Laughingbird software. It’s pretty easy to use and they have lots of how-to videos and lots on what you can do with it. I’ve used this product for years and am an affiliate with them.

Your header, background image, and banner will tell a lot about your business. As of the writing of this article, the dimensions of a LinkedIn banner is 1400 x 425 pixels.

Don’t leave the social network’s default image.

  1. Be active and post on LinkedIn.

I used to do this. I’d take an older article on my website and post it to LinkedIn or Facebook. But I ended up stopping. But, I’ll try to make the time to restart with LinkedIn.

I do post updates to LinkedIn through social media buttons on my site and I have a social media VA who posts my articles about 10 times a day, but it’s not the same as having a full article on LinkedIn.

Again, LinkedIn is a search engine.

Other places I post articles are to Google and AuthorsDen. I only do this once a month, but it keeps me visible and appearing active.

  1. Share and Recommend.

Share the content of others on LinkedIn.

I do this almost every day whether on LinkedIn itself or if I’m reading an article on a website. If it’s valuable, I always share.

You should also recommend others, if you know the quality of their work. If you do, the person will most likely be willing to recommend you.

Why not go over all your social network profiles and make sure they’re up to date and working for you.


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