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.

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

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Be a Successful Writer Even if You Don’t Think You Have Enough Time

Picture Book Writing Style

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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.

Basically…

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: 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 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.

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.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Be a Successful Writer Even if You Don’t Think You Have Enough Time

Picture Book Writing Style

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Apr 18

3 Fiction Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Contributed by Suzanne Lieurance

A few mistakes in your fiction can often make the difference between a very good manuscript and a not-so-good one that is rejected by publishers.

Below are just three of the most common mistakes in fiction that I see day after day as a writing instructor and writing coach:

1) Overuse of participle phrases to begin a sentence.

A participle phrase usually begins with a word that ends in the letters “ing.”

There is nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with a participle phrase.

But when you do it too often, it begins to draw attention to itself and distract the reader from the action of the story.

Like this:

Reaching behind her, Mary grabbed her backpack and ran straight for the woods. Pushing branches and tangled vines out of her way, she was able to find the foot path. But a snake was stretched out across it. Turning around quickly and searching for another way through the forest, she suddenly heard someone call out her name.

Notice how clunky that sounds.

When you finish writing a story, go back over it and circle all the sentences that begin with a participle phrase.

If you have several of these phrases on each and every page, change most of them.

Like this:

Mary reached behind her and grabbed her backpack, then she ran straight for the woods. She pushed branches and tangled vines out of her way until she was able to find the foot path. But a snake was stretched out across it, so she turned quickly and searched for another way through the forest. Suddenly, she heard someone call out her name.

2) Dislocating or projecting body parts.

Yes, many writers actually do this in their stories.

The most common example of this is when characters’ eyes leave their bodies.

Here’s what I mean:

I was angry at my brother. I shot my eyes across the room at him and gave him a dirty look.

Yikes!

Was the poor brother left holding those eyeballs, or were they just stuck on the front of his shirt or something?

3) Dialogue that is punctuated incorrectly.

The most common example is when characters laugh words.

They simply can’t do this.

Try it yourself.

Can you laugh and speak at the same time?

Not really.

Yet, when you use a comma to separate the dialogue tag from the dialogue itself, you are indicating the words were laughed.

Here’s an example:

“I’d never try that in a million years,” laughed Denise.

To avoid this mistake, simply use a period after the dialogue, creating two separate sentences.

Like this:

“I’d never try that in a million years.” Denise laughed.

Each of these mistakes is easy to correct.

But now that you’re aware of them they should be easy to avoid in the first place!

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, author, and writing coach.

For more writing tips and resources for writers, visit writebythesea.com, and don’t forget to get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

This article was first published at: https://www.writersonthemove.com/2020/02/3-mistakes-to-avoid-when-writing-fiction.html

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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 Writing – Creating your Main Character P1

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Be a Successful Writer Even if You Don’t Think You Have Enough Time

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Apr 11

Proofreading and A Harder to Read Font

Whether you’re writing a children’s book, a novel, a blog post, or anything else, every author wants it to be error free.

No matter what you’re writing, the first step to get there is to edit and proofread your content.

If you’re submitting a manuscript to a literary agent or book publisher, it’s essential for it be polished. And it’s just as important if you’re self-publishing.

Well, according to Shane Frederick from Yale University, along with the your initial edit and proofreading, you need to read your manuscript in a more difficult font.

Frederick developed a simple 3 question or riddle test to reveal how students think and how it’s easy for the brain to miss things, including the right answer. The first response of the brain is to choose the simplest answer, the quickest one.

When it comes to proofreading, as Arial or New Times Roman are the most commonly used fonts, it’s advised to change your manuscript’s font to Monotype or Comic Sans Italicized. Using these more difficult to read fonts will reveal problems you skipped over in the font you usually use.

When the brain has to work harder to read and understand something, what you’re reading is better absorbed and retained.

Check out the video:

It’s an interesting phenomenon. Give it a try.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR STORY?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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

Book Marketing – The Foundation

How to Write a Story

Traditional Publishing and the Author Platform – Be Realistic

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Mar 28

The Writing for Children Ropes – 8 Tips

I always enjoyed writing. I’ve written poems, short stories, even songs. And although I enjoyed writing, I never thought of publishing my work or making it a career until around 2007.

As a novice, I figured it’d be a breeze – easy peasy. I mean how difficult could it be to write simple children’s stories?

Since I always felt comfortable writing, I thought it be a natural transition. Writing was something I always went to when in awe, when being inspired, or during struggles. And, I was always able to think of things to write about.

So, I began the process of actually writing children’s books with the intent of having them published.

My eyes were quickly opened. Another world sat before me, one filled with a lot of hard work, time, road blocks, and rejection letters.

While I did minor in English Lit in college, it had been many years ago. Along with this, it’s not really the background specifically needed in writing for children or writing to get published in the market at the time … or now.

To write for children …

  • You need to know what the current market wants.
  • 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, and telling should be limited.
  • You need to have the right sentence structure along with proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Your words and dialogue must be age appropriate.
  • You need to have an age-appropriate plot.
  • There should be only ONE point of view, one main character.
  • Your main character needs to grow in some way as a result of his journey.
  • You need to watch out for blind spots in your writing. Spots where you know what you intended to be conveyed, but the reader won’t.
  • You need to understand and utilize words such as tighten, good voice, focus, point of view, hook, and lots of other writing elements. It goes on and on and on.

Well then, just 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. Since I’ve gotten my Bachelor’s degree, I’ve taken a few college courses and other courses long distance and online and I can tell you that learning a subject in a classroom is much easier than learning through other means.

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

Why is it so hard?

The reason for the difficulty is there are thousands and thousands of websites and blogs that offer children’s writing information.

You’d think this is a good thing, but not everyone online knows what they’re talking about. For this reason, it’s important to use common sense when searching for information.

Make sure the site is current and posts content regularly. Another must is to research the blog owner. Does she have published books? Traditionally?

Is she in the business of writing or a hobby writer?

Another difficulty is that finding good sites can be time consuming.

If possible, get recommendations from other authors or folk in your writing groups.

So, what can you do to ease into this?

  1. Writing Groups

Your first order of business is to join a children’s writing group. One of the best is Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). There are new and seasoned people in the business of writing there who are willing and able to help. This is also a good place to network.

You can also do an online search for other groups.

  1. Critique Groups

Next on your plan should be to join a children’s writing critique group. You’ll be able to find one in SCBWI.

  1. Writer Conferences

It’d be a good idea to attend writer conferences. Some of the bigger ones are:

SCBWI Annual Conferences
The Highlights Foundation Workshop Retreats
Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference
Northwestern Christian Writers Conference

You can also do a search for others. Just be sure to look at dates. I’ve found a number of sites that list events that are outdated – by years.

  1. Writing Workshops and Webinars

There are also a number of sites that offer online writing whether workshops, zoom meetings, or others.

MasterClass
SCBWI
WOW! Women on Writing
JaneFriedman.com
WritersDigest.com
Gotham Writing Workshop

The workshops and sites mentioned in this article may not all focus directly on writing for children, but they will offer great writing information.

  1. Blogs

Another source of advice is children’s writing tips is children’s editors, publishers and agents’ blogs. Often, you’ll get great tips and information.

Find reliable and well-established sites. An excellent one is GoodStoryCompany.com and KidLit.com with Mary Kole.

Here are a few others:

Steve Laube Agency
Caitlin Derve
Truby’s Writing Studio
Children’s Book Insider
The Write Practice
Writer’s Digest
Writers Helping Writers.net
Writers on the Move.com

  1. Books on Writing for Children

Below are a few:

How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book by Karen Cioffi
The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein
The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard
How to Write a Children’s Book by Katie Davis and Jan Fields
Yes! You Can Learn to Write Children’s Books by Nancy I. Sanders

  1. Read, Read, Read

Read writing books and books in the genre you want to write.

Pay close attention to the books in your genre as you read.

What do you like about the book? How did the author convey emotion? How did the author hook you? How were the sentence, paragraphs, and chapters written?
How was the dialogue written? How did the story flow? Who was the protagonist? How did s/he grow through the journey?

Pick up on everything you can.

  1. Industry Standards Matter

Keep up with the industry standards. What are traditional children’s publishers and literary agents looking for? What’s being published? What are the standard word counts for the different genres? What books are winning valid awards?

This matters whether you’re traditionally publishing or self-publishing. You want a professional book. One that screams that the author knows what she’s doing.

While the world of writing for children can feel overwhelming, it can also be very rewarding. Take the time to learn the ropes so you can create a publishable book. And, create a time management plan.

Keep on learning; keep adding tools to your writing toolbox.

With hard work and perseverance, you can write a children’s book that you’ll be proud to be the author of and one that will be publishable as well as marketable.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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

Self-Publishing: 3 Perks and 4 Warnings

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

Small Home-Grown Book Publishers – Good or Bad?


Mar 21

Are You Overthinking Your Story?

As a children’s ghostwriter I work and have worked with a lot of clients.

What I’ve noticed over the years is that some authors can’t stop overthinking their story.

So, what does ‘overthinking’ a story mean?

Well, it means a number of things from not being able to see a manuscript ready for publication to overthinking a sentence or the storyline.

Working with over 300 clients, it’s interesting that only a handful had trouble realizing when the story was complete.

They’d want to add this or add that, not realizing less with young readers is more.

Overall, though, the majority of my clients overthink at the sentence level.

For example, I have one client who questions every duplicate word within a paragraph.

Now, it’s true that choosing the right words is essential for writing, especially writing for children. But there are some words that will need to be repeated whether for emphasis or because the word is simply needed – there may not be a suitable synonym for it.

If you look at the paragraph above, there are words that are repeated: that, words, writing, and for.

Words like conjunctions, determiners, and so on are also factors to consider.

A conjunction is a word that’s used to connect words, phrases, and clauses.

Such words include: and, but, for, if, when, and because.

Examples:

I’ll go to the store if it’s not raining out.
I’d go to the story, but it’s raining out.

Determiners are words that go before a noun to indicate quantity (e.g., two boys, a lot of dogs). These words are in two classes: an article (the, a/an) and a demonstrative (those, they, this, few, several, that).

An example (notice the determiner, that):

Can you pass me that book?

While often it is possible to rewrite your sentences to avoid repeating words, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

But I’m going astray.

Along with the sentences, clients also overthink the storyline and the characters.

The author may want to fit too much into a young children’s book. They may want to include two different topics within one story. Or they may have too many characters.

When writing for the four to eight-year-old group, simplicity and clarity rules.

The young reader needs one plot and one main character. There can be a couple of other characters, like friends, siblings, or cousins being involved, but you really don’t want more than that.

Again, for the young reader, it’s all about simplicity and clarity.

Trust your ghostwriter, or if you’re writing the story yourself, read a lot of traditionally published books in the genre you’re writing.

This will give you a feel for what good writing is.

You might also actually write out or type out the stories of some of the books you read as practice. It helps train your brain to recognize good writing.

Another strategy you might use if you’re writing the story yourself is to read a number of books on writing skill, take a children’s writing course, or you can hire a children’s writing coach.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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

Are All Children’s Books Meant to Become Books?

Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Picture Book? Are Illustrations Included?

Writing Plot Twists into Your Story

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Mar 07

Story, Plot, and Arcs

Lately, I’ve received a few picture book manuscripts from potential clients who wanted quotes on editing.

Once I read over the stories, I quickly knew they weren’t editing projects because there were no actual stories. They were a list of events or scenes.

It seems to be a common problem with new authors who don’t take the time to learn the very basics of writing a story.

So, what exactly is a story and plot?

An article at The Write Practice uses a quote from E. M. Forster to explain the difference between story and plot: “The king died and then the queen died,” is a series of events and can be considered a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief,” is a plot.

The story is the basic storyline. It’s the overall description of the story.

In my middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, the storyline is the protagonist wants to become rich and powerful, no matter what it takes.

The plot is in the details.

The plot of Walking Through Walls would be the protagonist wants to become rich and powerful, no matter what it takes, and he believes learning magic will get him there.

Another good example of story and plot is The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin.

The story: Within one hour, the protagonist thinks her husband died in a train crash. Having missed the train, he comes home and the protagonist drops dead.

The plot: The protagonist thinks her husband died in a train crash. Having missed the train, he comes home and the protagonist drops dead but it’s not from the shock of overwhelming joy.

Paints quite a different story, doesn’t it?

Now, if you have a series of events: Pickles the dog plays with a cat, then plays with a frog, then plays with a goat, then plays with a pig, you don’t have a story arc or character development. Again, this is a series of events.

I’ll have clients ask why something like the above isn’t a story. The dog is having lots of fun with different animals.

Well, if it was a concept book, teaching about animals, then it could work.

But if it’s to be a fiction story, it doesn’t work. The reason is it’s lacking a story arc and a character arc.

The story arc is the path the overall story takes. Every character in the story goes on this journey.

It’s also called the narrative arc.

According to a MasterClass article, the narrative arc “provides a backbone by providing a clear beginning, middle, and end of the story.”

The character arc on the other hand is the path the protagonist takes.

Just like the story, this arc takes the protagonist on a journey along with the reader.

The character arc is all about the protagonist. It’s him confronting a conflict or challenge, his attempts to overcome it, and his ultimate success. Through this character journey, the protagonist grows in some way. She may gain knowledge, become confident, rise up to challenges, become mature, or grow in some other way. But it’s essential there is growth, especially when writing for children.

So, going back to Pickles the dog, he, as the protagonist, has no conflict or challenge to overcome. He doesn’t grow in any way.

And as for the Pickles story, it’s flat. There’s no arc.

Readers won’t become invested in a series of events. They want to connect to the protagonist and root for him to overcome his obstacles. They want a full story arc and character arc.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR STORY?

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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

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Writing Elements – Is One More Important Than Another?

Submitting Your Ghostwritten Book to a Children’s Publisher

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Feb 28

Dialogue and Tags

Writing Tips

I’m rewriting a young adult book for a client. It’s over 100,000 words.

With that many words, the author felt compelled to mix up the dialogue tags.

That, though, is never a good idea.

Some of the tags he used were: spat, laughed, teased, smirked, joked, yawned, and sneered.

But my client isn’t the only one who doesn’t realize that there are specific words for dialogue tags. That might be because new authors aren’t familiar with the tag’s purpose.

So, what exactly is a dialogue tag?

According to The Write Practice, “they ‘tag’ the dialogue to a particular character. Also often referred to as an attribution, a dialogue tag is a small phrase either before, after, or in between the actual dialogue itself.”

That puts it pretty simple.

Dialogue tags are phrases that identify who is speaking. They are a must for clarity and in order to keep the reader in the know and involved in the story.

A few examples:

“What was that?” asked John.

“I couldn’t finish my homework,” John said.

John sat on the chair and said, “I give up.”

“If I go to the store,” John said, “I’ll pick up milk.”

So, you can see that dialogue tags are straight forward. They allow the reader to know who’s talking.

The basic tags are said and asked. These tags kind of become invisible to the reader. The reader can acknowledge who is talking while not thinking twice about the tag.

But when the basics just aren’t enough, you can also use whispered, shouted, mumbled. They should be used sparingly, though.

So, going back to dialogue tags that shouldn’t be used, I did a search and was surprised at the results.

One site had a list of dialogue tags that included, emitted, bubbled, chuckled, grinned, sang, smiled, and rejoiced.

Another site had grieved, mewled, bawled, blubbered, fretted, agonized, comforted, admired, hissed, soothed, glowered, placated, assented, tittered, and sobbed, stating they could be used as dialogue tags.

This may be one of the problems as to why some writers feel it’s okay to use these words.

A good way to think about whether a word can be used as a tag, is to think of the word and what it means.

You can’t blubber dialogue.
You can’t admire dialogue.
You can’t comfort dialogue.
You can’t sneer dialogue.
You can’t tease dialogue.
You can’t emit dialogue.
You can’t spit dialogue.

Dialogue tags and adverbs.

This is another common problem that can arise with dialogue and tags – the use of adverbs.

My client did a lot of this also.

Using an adverb after a tag looks like this:

“Don’t bother getting up,” John said angrily.

“You’re beautiful,” John said admiringly.

“Get out of my chair,” John said disgruntled.

Instead of using adverbs, the sentence or paragraph should show how the character is feeling.

Here’s an example:

Ellen couldn’t open her eyes. Crying all night left them swollen and achy. “How could this happen?” she whispered.

Showing what’s going on allows the reader to know how she’s feeling. You wouldn’t need to add “sadly” at the end of the tag.

Do you always have to use dialogue tags?

Another question that can come up about dialogue tags is whether they have to be used all the time.

The answer is, no, as long as it’s clear who’s speaking.

John shook his head. “No way. I’m not going.”

“You’ve got to,” said Pete.

“No, I don’t.”

In this simple example you can see that only one of the dialogue’s has a tag.

The first one notes who’s talking by using: John shook his head.

The dialogue that comes after that is from John.

The third dialogue line is John responding to Pete. As there are only two characters in the scene, the reader will know John is speaking.

Writing dialogue is easy once you get the hang of it.

A good way to learn how to write dialogue with proper tags is to read a lot of traditionally published books. Pay attention to the dialogue and tags.

It’s not that I’m putting down self-published books, I’ve self-published two books. The problem is not all self-published books are done professionally.

Traditionally published books have professionals editing them; they have gatekeepers to ensure the story is quality. They know the ropes and it’s important to learn from books that are done right.

Writing Help

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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

Why Do You Want to Write a Children’s Book?

When Is It Time to Let Your Manuscript Fly?

The Hardest Part of Writing is Actually Starting

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Feb 21

Writing Skill Versus Talent

I read a very interesting paper, Innate Talent: Myth or Reality? by Lynn Helding. It delved into whether you can truly succeed, become extraordinary in your field without innate talent.

It got me thinking of writing among other things, such as musicians and mathematicians.

Do some writers have an innate ability (talent) to create amazing and memorable stories?

Do the words just flow onto the page with less effort than the average writer?

Can a writer with an innate ability come up with storylines when needed without staring at the computer or pulling their hair out?

If you don’t possess that innate talent, can you become a skilled writer and produce works as outstanding as someone who has talent or is gifted?

Does practice and HARD work make up for innate talent?

While I’m not an expert in the field, in my humble opinion, I believe that people do possess certain innate abilities, whether that be talent, physical prowess, agility, exceptional intellect, or something else.

With that said, and aside from physical attributes, I don’t believe the lack of an innate talent in a particular area limits anyone from excelling in that area.

Jeff Goins in his article, The Truth About Natural-Born Talent, agrees with this. “Certainly, there may be some amount of natural talent for some abilities. But as Geoff Colvin pointed out in his book Talent Is Overrated, if talent does exist, it doesn’t really matter.”
https://goinswriter.com/talent-myth/

Goins goes on to say that it’s all about hard work, practice, consistency.

In an article at Fortune Magazine, Secrets of Greatness, it pretty much states the same thing. “You do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don’t exist. You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that’s demanding and painful.”

Even the paper I mentioned at the beginning of this article concludes that innate talent is not what creates greatness. It’s the time, effort, and work one puts into a career.

On the flip side in the Fortune Magazine article, Warren Buffet said that he was, “wired at birth to allocate capital.” The article does note that Buffet devoted his life to studying his field.

What’s super-interesting in that article is that research shows that a lot of people who work hard for decades in a particular field may not achieve greatness.

The researchers found that it takes ‘deliberate practice’ and consistency to make the difference, to take one’s performance to the elite status.

As I mentioned, I do believe that some people do have something, an innate talent or physical attribute, that may make writing, playing an instrument or sports, or excelling in the business world come easier and allows them to become extraordinary in that area.

One example is the 7’2 basketball player. Won’t it naturally be easier for him to make a slam dunk than a 5’10 player could? But on the flipside, imagine that 7’2 guy trying to do gymnastics.

I guess the physical attributes may play more of a factor than innate talent. As research is showing, an average person can become great with hard work, deliberate practice, and consistency.

The innate talent may get the individual started and it may initially be easier for him, but, some with an innate talent won’t go on to greatness or develop expertise without putting in the work and time.

What do you think?

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or 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 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 Tips to Determine Your Audience and Target Market

Outlines and Character Details – Tips on Writing a Middle Grade Story

Writing Dialogue? Try These 5 Top Tips

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