May 09

Series Writing – Charting the Details

Writing a children's series.

Writing a series can be rewarding and also challenging.

Think about it.

With a single chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, you need to keep track of all the details.

With a series, there’s a lot more to keep track of.

Linda Wilson has a helpful article on charting the details of your series:

The Challenge is in the Details

Begin your children’s book series by creating worksheets to keep track of the details. This will help avoid the pitfalls of time spent having to flip back to previous books for small (or large) details that may have escaped you. Preparing your series worksheets isn’t much different than keeping track of the details for each of your writing projects. To accomplish this for each individual book project:

  • Keep a separate notebook for each book.
  • In each notebook, preferably during the first stage, create a chart of the following important information. This will take time but will be worth it. The information will be at your fingertips to tweak as you go along, and also to use for school visits, your blog, etc.

These are the categories you should have:

  • Age group
  • Genre
  • Verb tense
  • Point of View
  • Mood or tone
  • Setting
  • Time span
  • Character list, role played in your story and profiles
  • Theme
  • List of Scenes or contents of chapters
  • Concept sentence
  • Why you wrote your book
  • Where your idea came from
  • Research: what you researched, what file it’s kept in, sources you’ve cited
  • Books by other authors that are similar to your book or that you used as models
  • A list of your favorite authors, your favorite books and the authors’ bios

Ideas on how to Organize your Series

Keep a separate section or separate notebook if you’ve created a series. A series organizational chart can contain information similar to the charts for your books.

  • Series title
  • Genre
  • List of characters and how this list changes from book to book
  • How the books tie together
  • How your characters grow and change as the series progresses
  • Series timeline
  • Settings
  • Keep track of the series books you’ve read and notes you’ve taken
  • Most important: write down how your series will end
  • Also: keep track of special information pertaining to your story, such as in my MG mystery, the chapter(s) and page numbers of when the ghost appears.

Join the Fun

One of the most fun parts of writing a series for me has been reading popular and well-loved series by other authors.

  • Take notes on the books you’ve read and on how the series is connected.
  • Note who the mc is and how the mc changes and grows
  • Are there new characters introduced? Which ones stay the same in each book?

What’s so intriguing is the difference in how the books are connected from series to series. In the Stepping Stones series of chapter books about ghosts by Marion Dane Bauer, each book has different mc’s and characters; the connection is that each book is about a ghost-of-a-different-color: The Blue Ghost, The Green Ghost, The Red Ghost, The Golden Ghost. And the delightful Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, in which sweet Princess Magnolia must handle a monster problem when her glitter-stone ring rings. Out bursts the Princess in Black for her next adventure, which is different in each book.

When I first realized that two of my projects could become series I was intimidated. But, after studying the nature of series writing I’ve come to realize that planning is key, as it is for the creation of any book, either right from the start or the plans emerge sometime during the revision stage. I plan to avoid as many pitfalls as possible by following the advice of authors who have shared their expertise and experiences. I hope this information will help you, too.

About the Author

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney’s online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.

This article was originally published at: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/11/series-writers-chart-details-part-3.html

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: 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 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.

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Jun 14

Three Tips on Starting a Book Series

Writing a Series

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Writer Beware: “Series are tricky. Writing series is not for the faint of heart.” So says Janet Lane Walters, award-winning author of series in multiple genres and more; as quoted in my latest find, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, by Karen S. Wiesner.

I am living testimony to this fact. My dream has been to expand the one undertaking that has taken heart and soul to write, MY BOOK, into a series. The dream took shape when I realized I didn’t want to part with my characters. Little did I know what the creation of a series would mean. Thank goodness so many authors are willing to share their ideas on writing a series, including how to begin, how to avoid common pitfalls and how to stay on target, whether you’re writing a trilogy or see no end in sight.

In today’s post, I would like to summarize three topics that will help propel you out of the gate, described in Wiesner’s book: Book Groupings, Types of Series and Series Blurbs. If you are looking for good, solid advice on writing a series, I highly recommend Wiesner’s book, which offers a thorough approach with many examples and worksheets that can save time and effort.

Book Groupings are as Familiar as Fiction Itself

Series: Any continuous or interconnected set of stories. The two main types are the books best read sequentially, such as Harry Potter books; and those books read in any order, such as Nancy Drew books.

Trilogy: Continues one long-term story arc or each story stands alone with a loose connection.

Serial: Serial, episode or periodical stories come from a single work and are read in installments, such as Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, first published in 1836; considered to have established the serial format. A current example is Stephen King’s story, The Plant (2000).

Miniseries: A planned number of stories told within an existing series. A personal favorite of mine on television, such as the six-part Roots and John Adams; Wiesner gives as her example in writing, The Darling Birds, by Johnny Dale.

Other types of groupings include: Prequel, Sequel, Interquel, Spin-off, and Tetralogy (four-book series that can be developed the same as a Trilogy).

What Type is your Series?
The four main types of series Wiesner pins down, summarized here, has helped me turn a fuzzy idea of what I’m attempting to write into a clear vision. She points out that authors often create a combination of these types, a good idea if you want your series to stand out.

Recurring character: Popular in mystery/suspense stories, fantasy, sci fi and paranormal genres. Wiesner's example: Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer.

Your star character appears in each book, often with her trusty sidekick. The stories can be told from one or the other point of view.

I considered doing this in my current series project but was advised by an editor that by switching POVs, some of the reader’s emotional investment in my main character could be lost. I decided for this first series, to stick with the two mc’s who are introduced in Book 1, with one of them the predominant mc. Wiesner advises that in this type of series there’s a large cast of characters with varied importance from story to story.

Central Group of Characters: Popular in romance novels, women's fiction, paranormal, sci fi and fantasy. Example: Redwall Series by Brian Jacques.

Your main group of characters have a loose or specific connection that ties them together, and one or two of the characters become the mc as the series progresses.

Premise/Plot Series: Popular in action/adventure, suspense and thriller, inspirational, paranormal, horror, sci fi and fantasy. Example: Unbidden Magic Series by Marilee Brothers.

The connection in this type of series is the plot or premise that is the underlying theme.

Setting Series: Your setting works in your series' books across the board.

The stories are tied by the setting. Characters can change, but the setting stays the same.

Series Blurbs on Steroids
One of the most difficult tasks of fiction writing, as we know, is encapsulating our novel in a short, concise sentence.

Weisner suggests blurbing your entire series in the early stages of the work, keeping it to one to four sentences; as short as possible and tweaking it as you go along.

Your series blurb should:

– Be an overview of the entire series.
– Tell how the books in the series are connected.
– Inspire readers to want to read not just one book but the entire series.
– Let the genre shine through.
– Give the blurb the same tone as the story.
– Consider adding interest by making the blurb a question or an exclamation.
– Should give you a plan on how your series will end.

Nailing down these preliminary tasks, authors say, will save you much time and effort as you write your series. But the initial planning is not yet complete. This trilogy of posts will conclude next month with various worksheet suggestions, that if started early, can serve as reminders of details that might be forgotten and not easily found once your series gets rolling.

This article was first published at: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/10/three-tips-on-starting-series-part-2.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney’s online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or rewriting, 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 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.
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/diy/

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Jun 24

Writing a Successful Children’s Series – 3 Key Elements

This is Part2 of writing a children’s series. And, if you’re a children’s writer of chapter books, middle grade, or young adult you can write one.

To write a series, you need three things:

1. Strong characters

In a ‘live’ workshop, Scholastic senior editor Matt Ringler noted that the most important element of a series is a strong character.

According to Ringler, the Goosebumps series is a perfect example of characters that people care about. This makes them want to read the next book in the series, and the one after that, and so on.

This is what makes a series successful.

2. Strong plot

Plot is also important, of course you need a good story. But Ringler finds strong characters trump plot.

3. The hook

Your story as always needs to grab the reader. It needs to hold his attention.

I can see you shaking your heads. Of course, you need these elements.

But, with the series it needs to have them consistently to keep the momentum moving forward.

So, how do you write a successful story?

According to Ringler, the most important aspect to writing a successful story is to do your research.

– Look in libraries and book stores. See what’s getting published and study those books.

– Look at similar titles in the genre your write and in the age range.

– Paying attention to comparative titles are crucial. Who published them? Who edited them?

– Know the format for the genres. This includes the word counts, age group, word levels, and so on.

– Read in the genre you write. Read at least 40 books in this genre. If you find this boring or you hate doing the research then you shouldn’t write in that genre. The research should be the fun part.

– Know what the editor edits. Know the genre he works in. If he edits chapter and middle grade books, don’t send him your picture book.

– Check out the editor’s website and try to find him on social media. You can also check Publisher’s Market Place and Book Shelf. The information you get from this research will give you a better idea of what he’s looking for and possibly how to approach him.

Next is to write and keep writing.

– Join a critique group to get other viewpoints (eyes) on your story.

– Revise, edit, slash, cut, and even start over if need be.

– When you’re finished with a project, start on the next one.

Ringler emphasized that the more books you have out there, the more potential you have for visibility and sales. If a child likes a book, she’ll want more of that book in the form of a series.

How do you know if you’re a successful series writer?

Most series have four books, some have six. This is usually the max of a successful series.

Then there is the phenomenon. These books skyrocket way beyond expectation.

Think “Harry Potter,” “Goosebumps,” “Twilight,” “Puppy Place.”

“Goosebumps” has been around over 20 years and the original author, R. L. Steiner, is still writing them. As a standalone series, it may be one of the reasons for its phenomenon success.

“Puppy Place” is on its 54th book.

And, “Harry Potter.” Enough said.

But, again, these are the exception to the rule.

How do you measure success?

Personal Success:

– Making extra money to supplement your income
– Support yourself with your writing
– Living comfortably
– Making the BIG bucks (this is exceedingly rare)

You’ll need to decide which of these meet your criteria for success.

Critical success:

– Positive reviews
– Starred reviews
– Grants and award

If you’re just starting out, don’t let bad reviews hinder you. “Goosebumps was originally slammed by reviewers. So was “Star Wars.”

Longevity success:

– A long lasting career. The ability to continue publishing.
– Consistent desire for more books from readers, libraries, editors, etc.

Promotional success:

– Public recognition (not usual)
– Direct outreach to kids to help promote reading
– A bigger platform for more visibility

Book sales success:

How many books do you need to sell to be considered successful?

Ringler gave an example of a new author, Author1, who had a 10,000-book print run. He ended up selling 20,000 books. The book was considered a BIG success.

In a second example, a new author, Author2, had a 100,000-book print run. The publishing house expected his book to be a hit. But, he only sold 20,000 books. This book was NOT a success. The publishing house lost money on this author.

In example two, if Author2 wants to pitch another book to that publishing house, they’ll think twice about giving him a contract.

So, success can be relative. Both authors sold 20,000 books, but one was considered a success, the other wasn’t.

I love the example Ringler gave. It something I hadn’t thought of and certainly puts sales success in perspective.

Summing it up:

If you write chapter books, or middle grade, or even young adult, consider turning your story into a series.

To read the first part of this two-parter article on writing a series, go to:
Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

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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Jun 17

Writing a Children’s Book Series – Different Types

Different types of children's book series

I attended another ‘live’ workshop through SCBWI. This one was with Senior Editor Matt Ringler with Scholastic. He’s in the series department for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.

If you write in these genres, you’ll want to read on!

In case you weren’t aware, Scholastic is the only publisher that deals solely with children’s books. One out of every three children’s books is sold by Scholastic.

That’s pretty impressive.

Scholastic sells their books through their publishing houses, the Scholastic Reading Club, and Book Fairs. They sell to 35 million children in more than 130,000 Fairs across the country, annually.

Okay, that’s enough about Scholastic, now on to great children’s writing tips.

Children’s books have specific age groups:

Early chapter: 6-8 age group
Chapter books: 7-10 age group
Middle grade: 8-12 age group
Young adult: 12+ age group

Ringler noted that in the ‘early chapter’ books, the rules are stricter. Getting the ‘reader level’ right is essential as are using age appropriate words.

He also noted that ‘young adult’ is not a genre, it’s an age group. The reason for this is that book stores have limited space for books and they separate children’s books by age.

What I found very interesting, is a series doesn’t have to follow through with the same characters.

The series could focus on a particular theme, maybe sports. Or, maybe the series focuses on a particular setting or time period, or other.

This gives the series writer great flexibility and freedom.

And, did you know that there are three different formats for children’s series?

1. The continuation.

The books in this format continue with the same characters and often the same situation, like in the Harry Potter series. These books are dependent on information in the prior books – you need to read them in order. You need to know what happened in the previous books to keep up with the story.

2. The standalone.

The books in this format don’t reference the prior books at all. You can pick up Book5 and be good to go. You don’t need any prior information to make sense of the story. And, they aren’t in any kind of sequence.

These books are independent of each other.

An example of this type of series is “Goosebumps.”

Ringler mentioned that when dealing with a standalone series, branding is super-important.

Getting the logo and cover design just right is necessary to help make the series a success. It needs to be easily recognizable as that series.

To get it just right takes months. All the departments involved need to be on board and approve it.

3. Sequential, but not dependent.

The books in this format are in order (sequential), but they’re not dependent on what happened in the previous book.

I think the editor mentioned that the “Puppy Place” series falls in this category. But, there was a lot of information, so please don’t quote me on this one.

Where does an editor get his projects from?

Ringler finds manuscripts from:

– Agents: they pitch their clients’ stories to him.

– Authors: existing Scholastic authors will come to him with another book they’ve written.

– Colleagues: other editors in Scholastic may get a manuscript that isn’t right for them but think it would be just-right for Ringler.

– Book Clubs and Book Fairs: they’ll need specific books for specific fairs. For example, focusing on the month of April, they want an April’s Fool book.

– Self-generated: these are ideas Ringler gets on his own. It may from browsing books stores, watching a movie or TV, or other.

Once the story is found, what’s the purchasing process?

This is the same for all editors. If they find a manuscript they’re passionate about, it goes to the Acquisitions Dept – everyone gets involved in the decision to purchase the story, or not.

Ringler noted that he can get rejected for a number of reasons:

– Scholastic has a similar book in the works
– They feel there’s not a market for it
– They just don’t like it
– Other reasons

The editor needs to fight to have his book chosen. It can take a year or more just to buy a book if things work out in the editor’s favor.

After the book is actually acquired, there are five steps that need to take place:

1. The editor goes over the first draft manuscript. This phase is about concept, story, clarity, etc.

2a. After the editor is done, it goes to the copyeditor for line editing. This phase is about grammar, punctuation, spelling, fact checking, and so on.

2b. Next, it’s on to character design. The illustrator will come up with a number of character designs that will be reviewed. The decision as to which should be used will be made.

3. Then it’s on to interior layout and design. The font to be used, where the illustrations are placed, the chapter heading style, and so on happen during this phase.

4. The fourth phase is where it’s all put to together with the cover, back cover, front matter, and so on. The book finally gets published at the end of this phase.

It will take around 18-24 months after the contract is signed for the author to finally have a published book.

To see Part2 of this article, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/06/24/writing-childrens-series-3-elements/

Children's ghostwriterWhether 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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