Dec 05

Want to Write For Anthologies?

Writing for an anthology.
Thinking of writing for an anthology? I have been for quite a while now, but just can’t seem to find the time to do the research and submit.

Well, if you have been thinking about it, I have a guest post by Sharon Blumberg, who’s been there and done that.

Here it goes:

If you are not familiar with writing for anthologies, we will discuss more about this topic. An anthology is a completed work of writings that are submitted and accepted into a book by the editor and publisher. It is always based around a given theme, so it is important to follow the guidelines when writing for them, including the writing genre. 

One of the advantages of writing for anthologies is that your story contribution is generally longer lasting than that of a magazine, and the anthology fills a hole within the writing market. I have contributed my writings to a number of anthologies. Please see them on my Publications page: https://sharonoblumbergauthor.com/publications/

When writing submissions are being offered and announced by the editor, they come in many forms. Among these forms are open, closed, mixed, or open/closed. It is important to make note when these are listed, because these conditions state who may apply. 

For example:

Open means a wider range of writers may submit.
Closed means that the prospective contributor is invited only by the editor. 
Mixed means that it may be open or closed at different points in time. 
Open/Closed means the editor will let writers know if submissions are open, when they are open, or closed when they are closed.

Some anthologies have already secured publishers, where in some cases, a publisher may not yet be secured. Self-publishing is also an option for the editor to consider after editing and compiling the story collections.

Anthologies and Writer Rights

There are a number of rights anthology writers receive such as First Rights, First Anthology Rights, Anthology Rights, and etc. You should make sure you understand what the rights mean upon signing your acceptance contract to the themed collection. In this way, you will know how to proceed in using your published contribution as a reprint to future publications.

If you are interested in writing for anthologies, how do you find them? 

The easiest way to find them is by doing research. You may use various search engines to look up writing anthologies looking for writers, anthologies searching for contributors, etc.

Other great places to research writing markets looking for anthology writers would be social media platforms, writing organizations, Funds for Writers, who offer informative articles for writers, along with writing markets, including, anthologies. 

Another good one is Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. They always offer new upcoming books as they ask for contributors, so watch for the dates and themes. Poets & Writers Magazine’s classified sections, always list anthologies asking for writers.
 
Please find the websites below. 
https://www.pw.org
https://www.fundsforwriters.com
https://www.chickensoup.com 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon O. Blumberg is a recently retired school teacher, having taught seventh grade Spanish and Language Arts for over 20 years. In addition, she is a writer and voiceover artist. She is married with two grown children and young, twin grandchildren. She currently resides in the Austin area of Texas with her husband. When she is not reading or writing, she loves spending time with her family and friends, and going on long walks.

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.
 
Like thie post? Please Share!
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.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

What’s Stopping You from Becoming a Children’s Author

Submitting to an Editor or Literary Agents? 6 Things to Watch For

Your Story Beginning

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Nov 21

Writing Opportunities and Inspiration Through Television and News

Writing inspiration is all around us

By Regina Montana

I consider myself an animal lover which is why they often find their way into my stories and poems as main characters.

Then, I read a newspaper headline “Animals rescued from California fires.” I knew that this had real potential for a poem or picture book. It was filled with emotion for me.

I never realized how many animals could be affected by wildfires until I read this article. Bears often get burned since their instinct tells them to climb trees when there is danger. Many of the injuries are the same: burns, dehydration, respiratory problems, traumatic lesions, and starvation.

I’m always amazed at the brilliant work that scientists and veterinarians do to care for all creatures, great and small. Maybe I could in some way figure out a way to bring this story to light. I had already written a free verse poem called “A Giant Turtle Rescue” about the rescue of sea turtles in south Texas early this year when the waters turned frigid and the people of South Padre Island all came together to rescue the turtles. I also did a sketch of the turtles saluting the people who saved them.

At one point, my mentor and children’s book author Randi Mrvos suggested I try to write a non-fiction article for a children’s magazine.

Listening to the local news one night, I heard about The Hudson River Eel Project. This was a type of citizen scientist project designed to involve adults and college students in local environmental work. The project had been in existence for about 10 years, and the purpose was to track the migration pattern of the American Eel which then helped scientists study the health of the Hudson River.

I was never really enamored of eels. Until, that is, I heard about their amazing journey. They ride ocean currents as tiny larvae born in the middle of the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of North America.

This motivated me. I was determined to write an article that would change kids’ minds about this creepy creature that has been around for millions of years. Once complete, I submitted it.

Recently a major newspaper wrote to me saying my article is still with the editorial department which may consider publishing it in the coming months. I remain ever hopeful that this story will amaze young readers as it did this 72-year-old grandmother (at the time.)

Did I mention I had to hike down a fairly steep embankment with a torn meniscus in my left knee, fearful that at any minute I could fall into the fairly frigid water of this Hudson River tributary? Thankfully, I did not fall, but kept a tight grip on a rope that helped us get down into the water.

We counted baby larvae that got trapped in nets called fykes. They were subsequently carried in a pail as we walked past a damn and released them into the tributary. Now they were ready to swim upstream and grow into adult eels, many 3-4 feet in length. Then they swim back out to the Sargasso Sea, the only place where they spawn and die.

So always keep an open mind when you read the news, in print or online, or turn on the television. The main character for your next picture book, magazine article, or poem may be waiting. It might even be the story of tiny larvae riding the currents of the Atlantic Ocean, then heading up and down North American rivers and growing into adult eels. And they’ve been doing this for millions of years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor to Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi

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.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

5 Must-Know Tips to Help Revise Your Story

Writing for Children: Enjoy the Journey

Scenes and How to Make Them Work

Like this post? Please share it!
Nov 14

Self-Publishing: Scams, Scams, and More Scams

Writing and Scams

Scams are all over the place and touch on almost every facet of life.

From paying off you student loans, to your car maintenance insurance is about to lapse, to calls that your Amazon account has been hacked.

Well, authors aren’t exempt.

There are a number of scams going around for self-publishing authors.

These scams range from online services that will publish your book, edit and proof your manuscript, create your illustrations (if you’re a children’s author), market your book, and even create a website for you.

Dealing with so many ghostwriting clients (around 350), I’ve heard and even seen some of the horror stories.

One client hired a self-publishing company, a subsidiary of a major publishing company, to do the illustrations for a book I wrote for him.

The client thought that because there was a major publisher somewhere in the background would ensure quality work, so he went with them.

The illustrations were poorly done and it cost him upwards of $10,000.

Another client decided to use one of these self-publishing services to market his book and create an author website.

He gave me the link to the website and again, another unprofessional job. The web copy was weak and full of errors.

Yet another client hired a marketing firm to handle her children’s book marketing. They subbed the work to ‘who knows who’ to create the website.

The subbed service had no idea how to write copy for a children’s site. They didn’t even know what webpages to create. The client hired me to oversee the website project.

Most of these services use ineffective marketing strategies. So basically, the author is paying for nothing. Probably eight out of ten of the services don’t’ know what they’re doing. And, they don’t care.

The scam stories go on and on and on. It’s horrible. Authors spend thousands and thousands for noticeably unprofessional work.

In regard to editing, proofing, and even ghostwriting, these services hire non-English speaking writers and most often they’re not professional writers. And, they charge top dollar for the work. I’ve even seen manuscripts where it’s evident that the writers didn’t know how to write for children.

I’ve had a couple of clients who decided to allow the self-publishing service they hired to publish the book edit the manuscript also.

AAGGGGHHHHH.

The reason I know this happened is because they came back to me to revise what the service had done.

This is a main reason I’d never allow a client to use my name in their book. I have no idea what they do with the story once I hand it over.

A New Scam

Now, there’s a new scam in town. At least it’s one I haven’t heard of before.

This one aims at a book that’s already self-published.

According to Writer Beware, “scores of publishing/marketing/fake literary agency scams that are super-aggressively soliciting self-published and small press writers these days with an offer to re-publish or “re-brand” your book.” (1)

You should read this article as these services are worse than the self-publishing companies.

You can read it here:
(1) Say NO to That Offer to Re-Publish Your Self-Pubbed Book 

Another article to check out is:
3 Ways to Identify a Publishing Scam

If these articles can stop one author from jumping in blindly, they’re worth their weight in gold.

As someone who has been in this business for a while, it’s so sad to see authors taken advantage of by unscrupulous scammers… thieves.

So, please beware, and remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Need help with your story?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

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

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Children’s Books and Back Matter

The Secret of Getting Ahead

Creating Story Characters – Avoid These Common Mistakes

Please Share

Oct 24

The Children’s Ghostwriter: Who, How, and Why

The Who, How and Why

A while ago, I had a conversation with a fellow attendee at a children picture book workshop. When I mentioned I’m a children’s ghostwriter she was curious how I got started in the field.

I couldn’t answer her. I couldn’t remember how it actually came about.

Thinking back, though, I did start out editing for authors. Many of the manuscripts I was given was in such poor condition, I ended up rewriting the stories, some almost to the point of ghostwriting.

It just seemed to evolve from there.

In case you’re wondering, a ghostwriter is a writer who will take your idea, notes, outline, or other information and write a story for you. And, ghostwriters write in every genre you can think of: fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, screenplays, video, TV scripts, technical, medical, speeches, music, and so on.

The ghostwriter offers a nondisclosure agreement and freelance agreement. And, she usually doesn’t get any recognition for her work. Although, there are instances where the ghostwriter and client agree to other terms.

Two other terms that may arise between a ghostwriter and client:

The ghostwriter has her name on the book as co-author for a reduced fee.

The ghostwriter gets a percentage of the sales, again for a reduced fee.

In my opinion, it’s never a good idea to accept either of these terms. Well, that is unless you absolutely know the book will be successful or the author is famous.

Who hires a children’s ghostwriter?

The answer to this question always amazes me.

There are people from around the world who want to be author of a children’s book but don’t have the skills or time to do it themselves.

I’ve worked with well over 300 clients from lots of different countries, including Italy, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Norway, Saipan, Jordon, Dubai, and all over the United States, even Hawaii.

It seems most often it’s parents or grandparents who develop a desire to be an author of a children’s book. Usually, they want to have a story created about their children or grandchildren, or they want to impart some wisdom to children.

I’ve worked with child therapists and child psychologists who use children’s books as a tool to broaden their ability to help children.

I’ve also worked with teachers and principals who want to teach children beyond the boundaries of their school or classroom.

And, then there are the business people who see a children’s book as part of a marketing strategy for the industry they’re in or as an addition to a product they already have.

In addition to this, I’ve worked with clients who wanted a series of children’s books to use as the foundation of a new business.

I’ve even ghostwritten for a dentist.

What skills does a children’s ghostwriter need?

  1. Being a skilled writer.

While a number of authors who self-publish have the “I want it now” syndrome and ‘wing’ their books into publication, you can’t do this when someone is paying you to write a professional story.

Aside from knowing how to write, it’s essential to know the specific rules of writing for children. The ghostwriter needs to know what the current industry guidelines are.

  1. Knowing how to listen.

Listening carefully to the client is a must. The ghostwriter needs to take simple things like an idea given over the phone or in an email, notes, or a basic outline and create an engaging and publishable book.

Along with this, the writer needs to ensure the book reflects the client’s voice and vision. Listening is an essential factor in doing this.

  1. Being patient.

It may seem unusual, but a ghostwriter needs to be patient.

I’ve had a couple of clients who approved a final story, then came back in a week or two and decided they wanted revisions.

I had a middle-grade client who kept putting multiple POVs within one chapter. I’d edit it, and he’d change it.

I had another client who pretty much kept ignoring my advice as I rewrote his young adult novel.

It’s important to be patient and tactful while explaining over and over why something doesn’t work. The reason to keep after the client is that it’s the ghostwriter’s job to make sure the final product is professional.

  1. Being organized and focused.

I usually handle more than one project at a time. At one point, I worked on eight projects simultaneously.

If you’re dealing with multiple clients, you need to be able to switch stories and sometimes genres without losing a beat. This takes focus… and flexibility while handling all he emails from clients.

For organization, I use a Word and excel file for each client. I keep track of every email and every phone call.

Any time you’re dealing with writing clients, you need to keep things moving smoothly and keep your clients satisfied and in-the-loop throughout each project.

  1. Having the ability to follow through, and be on time.

As with any writing project, you’ve got to complete it and come in on time.

In the terms of the agreement, there is a time period for the project to be complete. The ghostwriter must meet the deadline.

Above all else, a ghostwriter wants to make sure her client is thrilled with the final product.

What’s the motivation?

I can’t speak for all children’s ghostwriters, but for me, I love writing for children. It’s satisfying to teach children, engage them, amaze them, bring them on adventures, and stretch their imaginations.

And, I love helping others fulfill a desire they have to see their children’s story ideas come to life.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

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

Articles on writing for children

Children’s Books and Back Matter

The Secret of Getting Ahead

Creating Story Characters – Avoid These Common Mistakes

LIKE THIS POST? PLEASE SHARE!

Oct 17

5 Must-Know Tips to Help Revise Your Story

Editing and revisions are a major part of writing.

Contributed by Linda Wilson

Now that the first draft of the second book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secret in the Mist, is done, I can get to work. As author Michael Crichton has said, “writing is all about rewriting, which can be depressing, especially when after the seventh rewrite you find that’s still not working.” In other words, “books aren’t written, they’re re-written.”

Most helpful is a study of the charts that Kate Messner has created to use in her revision process. Before I studied Messner’s charts, I relied on lists, which is what I’m using for Mist. When I begin the third and last book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secrets of the Heart, I plan to switch over to my own version of Messner’s chart system.

Get the First Draft Down

When I wrote the first book, Secret in the Stars, I spent too much time writing and editing what I wrote, all the way through the manuscript. That process turned out to be extremely inefficient. It made the book take a long time to write. This is what I advise after writing Mist:

• Leave your editor’s cap at the door and write your book straight through without any interruptions.
• Let the draft sit at least five days.
• Do a read-through or general revision, editing for word choice, obvious additions and deletions; in short, anything you see that needs improving.
• Let the draft sit.

Analyze your Story: Make a List

• Get Organized: First on the list is to take stock of ideas that occur to you while writing the first draft. I wish I could say I made a neat list of my ideas. I didn’t. The ideas appeared on whatever paper was available at the time the idea struck. Still, after sifting through the piles of papers in my office, I’m glad I saved them. Examples: Abi hears a faint whistle every time the ghost appears. This “aha” moment came to me while watching a movie on TV and hearing that whistle. I put to use that terrific little scrap of paper.
• Another example is my note: “Keep personal stakes high,” a reminder I had heard at an SCBWI Zoom meeting. I began a revision with this in mind, and that pass turned out to be the second major revision.

Create Arcs for each Character

Making character arcs are not only fun and informative, but necessary. I like to make diagrams with brief descriptions of how the characters have progressed and grown through the story. The example I like to use is the thirty-five pages in Book 1 where the dog Star was missing. It was a noticeable gap, which I filled in. In Book 2, I’ve completed the arc for Angel, an antagonist, who doesn’t appear in Book 3.

List the scenes

It is, of course, important to make sure the scenes are varied and interesting. Also, keeping track of the scenes helps you make sure the story is moving forward and doesn’t contain any “dead” spots. When Chris Eboch, a professional editor and prolific author who happily belongs to my SCBWI-NM chapter, edited Book 1, she came to a lovely chapter near the end about kittens that the two main characters were given.

But, and that’s a big but, the scene didn’t move the story forward. I had to take the entire chapter out, painful as it was after having a professional photographer take my picture with two kittens at a pet store. The good news is that the photo with the kittens is a fun one for my website, and the chapter can be used in my promo materials, hopefully to help touch children’s hearts.

List Plot Points

For this most important analysis, structure becomes important. I learned how to structure my stories in a fiction writing course I took, which followed Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.”

• Make a diagram of your plot points using Cambpell’s diagram. Make sure your story has the structure it needs.

Check for Accuracy

Any information included in your book can be true or close to the truth. I mention the Alleghany Mountains in both Book 1 and 2, and made sure the setting was oriented correctly with the mountains set to the west. Many parts of both books needed to be researched for authenticity, such as in Book 1, a sheriff’s and deputy’s uniforms, the color of hard hats worn by different types of contractors; and in Book 2, Quakers who moved from Pennsylvania and settled in Loudoun County, Virginia in the 1800s, studied in order to help shape the personality of the ghost.

Release your book to your beta readers and a professional editor only after it is as polished as you can get it, after you’ve gone through your checklist of edits.

This article was first published at: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2021/01/revision-5-tips.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has two daughters, Kim and Tracy, who inspired her stories when they were younger. Linda is the editor of the New Mexico Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators newsletter, and has written posts for the Writers on the Move blog since 2013. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Find out more by visiting Linda’s website at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

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

Articles on writing for children

The Hardest Part of Writing is Actually Starting

Revisions and Editing – Do a Verb and Word Check

Writing Success – You Have to Walk-the-Walk


Oct 10

Writing for Children: Enjoy the Journey

Tips on your writing for children journey

Contributed by Regina Montana

Writing for children can be a wild ride. It is full of ups and downs, but success will depend on your tenacity to stay on that bucking bronco. Remember those scenes of cowboys holding on for dear life and then getting thrown off if the bronco was too hot to handle? Maybe this analogy is a slight exaggeration but in some ways it is not.

I’ve been on this bronco ride for about eleven years now. As I write about what it takes to stay on this amazing journey and hopefully become a published author, a few essentials come to mind:

  1. Believe in the message of your story. And not just believe, but be passionate about children reading this very unique book.
  2. Remain positive and don’t get bogged down with the rejections that inevitably will come. It’s all part of becoming a good writer. Be your own best friend. Talk kindly to yourself and celebrate small steps along the way.
  3. Read as many books as possible in the genre you want to write in. You can often find picture books read aloud on YouTube so a trip to your local library is not necessary.
  4. Attend webinars and join the many online writing groups and magazines including SCBWI and CBI. They will help you navigate the world of children’s literature. Find a mentor or critique group to bounce ideas off of.
  5. Write for at least a half hour every day. Keep a journal and write whatever comes into your head without editing. Feed your soul often by taking a walk alone and allow your imagination to wander. You might just get inspired and meet your main characters along the way. Remember: Ideas are everywhere. You must remain open.
  6. When your manuscript is finished, have it professionally critiqued by at least 4 people or services. There are many to be recommended. Develop a thick skin since it’s in your own best interest to have multiple sets of eyes reading your story.
  7. Try to find joy along the way. This journey is not for the faint of heart. If your expectations are not too many out of the gate, you can take your time, learn to write well and accept professional advice. You might just become a published author one day. The emphasis is on “one day.”
  8. Keep some inspiring words, figures or sources of inspiration nearby to look at. A figurine of my main character Sophie, a rescued tortoise, sits on my table as I write her story.

Below are my favorite books for beginning writers:

The Artist’s Way- Julia Cameron
Take Joy – Jane Yolen
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
Writing Picture Books – Ann Whitford Paul

Hope you find them helpful too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor to Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi

Regina Montana 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.

Children's ghostwriter

Check out my 200+ 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.

Articles on writing for children

Working with a Children’s Ghostwriter – The Process


Book Marketing – The Foundation

How to Write a Story



Oct 03

Scenes and How to Make Them Work

Writing powerful scenes

One of the best descriptions I’ve read on what a scene is, comes from James Scott Bell’s blog, Kill Zone. In an article on strengthening scenes, Bell explains that “scenes are the bricks that build the fiction house. The better the bricks, the better the house.” (1)

This gives a visual of how scenes work. Building one on top of the other to create a strong story.

Masterclass describes a scene as, “a section of a story that has its own unique combination of setting, character, dialogue, and sphere of activity.” (2)

This description gives more details, but I like Bell’s visual better.

The Masterclass article also explains that scenes are one of the “most valuable writing skills an author can possess.”

This makes scenes even clearer. They’re essential to a ‘good’ book. Going back to the brick house, the better (stronger) the brick, the stronger the house.

A scene has a beginning, middle, and end, just like the story.

When the location changes, or another character enters the scene, or something else significant changes within the scene, that’s usually an indication that it’s the end of that scene and the beginning of the next.

An example of this is from my middle grade book, Walking Through Walls.

The protagonist Wang, is trying to walk through a wall, but just can’t do it. He’s fearful of getting hurt. It takes him ten tries.

Finally, he passes through it. That’s the end of that scene.

The next scene has Wang ecstatic. He’s thrilled. He can’t contain himself.

So, how do you make scenes work?

  1. The first thing a scene needs to do is achieve something.

Think of the brick. It’s solid. It’s its own entity.

Each scene has a story to tell.

The scene may be a chase scene, a fight scene, the inciting incident, a romantic scene, or a scene establishing the setting.

Using Walking Through Walls again, in the beginning of the story, Wang is seen sweating and complaining while working in the wheat fields. This scene establishes the type of work Wang is doing and also establishes his attitude toward it.

  1. A scene should be the foundation for the next scene.

Scenes are like building blocks. They provide information the reader should know to move forward in the story.

Going back to Wang and his attitude toward hard work, it allows the reader to understand why he desperately wants a way out of his life.

The scene can also provide more information, such as backstory, or a look into the character’s family life, friendships, strengths, weaknesses, and so on.

It can be anything of value that helps move the story and characters forward.

  1. Every scene should have a point of view.

As a children’s ghostwriter, the majority of the stories I write have one point of view.

But also work on upper middle-grade where there can be two points of view and young adult where there can be multiple points of view.

When working with more than one point of view, each scene should be specific to only one, otherwise it can get confusing and weaken the strength of that brick.

  1. Each scene should contribute to the world you’re creating.

In Walking Through Walls, the time period is 16th century China. This meant a lot of research.

I incorporated tools of the time period, clothing, and even food within in the scenes to build the world the characters lived in.

I also used dialogue to build the world. I eliminated contractions and flavored the dialogue and actions with respect, especially toward elders.

  1. As your story should be shown and not told, so should your scenes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new writer of an experienced writer, it’s easy to fall into the ‘telling’ mode when writing.

Showing a scene means to use dialogue and action, along with sensory details, and internal thoughts.

Using showing allows the reader to be absorbed in the story. It allows the reader to connect to the character, and brings the reader into the story.

Telling keeps the reader at arms-length. The reader won’t be able to make as strong a connection to the character or the story.

Hope these five tips to writing a good scene help you strengthen your own story’s scenes.

References

(1) https://killzoneblog.com/2021/08/three-easy-ways-to-strengthen-a-scene.html

(2) https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-the-perfect-scene#quiz-0

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

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

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Sep 19

Do Your Characters’ Descriptions Matter?

Character descriptions are super important.

To answer the title question, character descriptions are essential.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXAMPLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable and marketable story today!

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

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Aug 29

The Great First Impression Book Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

NEED HELP WITH YOUR CHILDREN’S WRITING PROJECT?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting, rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700.