Oct 04

Tips on Polishing Your Novel

Contributed by Linda Wilson, Children’s Author

Writing tips.

You’ve finished your book. All the major edits and rewrites are done. Now it’s time to polish. Polishing includes the obvious edits, including making sure the story elements are present, verbs are active, every chapter moves the story forward, etc.

Fiction Short List:

– Does the beginning draw you in? Or could the story be started at a different point?
– Does the main character appear soon enough? Is there enough dialogue in the beginning?
– Does the story show and not tell?
– Is there a beginning, middle and end? Can you form a circle from beginning to end?
– Do the scenes flow and advance the plot?
– Does each character have an arc?
– Does your main character have a goal?
– Does your story have conflict?
– Is your story predictable?
– Did you explain everything well?
– Does the main character grow and change by the end?
– Would a different point of view, such as first person as opposed to third person, make the story more interesting?
– Are there any shifts in point of view?
– Does the dialogue sound natural?
– Are there any description “dumps” where pieces of the information could be spread out, ever so briefly? Does the story come to a satisfying conclusion?
– Are you finished? Not quite. Now it’s time to polish. Check to see if you’ve covered these technicalities, which I’ve collected since recently finishing my mystery novel for 8-12 year olds.

Edit each Item One at a Time

1. Each chapter beginning establishes “place” and each chapter ending entices your reader to find out what happens next.

2. Check past drafts to add any spicy details that were inadvertently edited out, such as brief descriptive phrases and personal thoughts of your main character.

3. Make sure you’ve covered the story elements, such as: Concept, Plot, Characterization, Voice, and Structure; beginning, middle and end, in a nutshell, the basics.

4. Are there are any “dead spots” where the story doesn’t move forward? Delete them.

5. Change any “telling” sentences to “show” what your character is doing and thinking.

6. Be specific. Check for anything vague or general and change to specific.

7. Do a drama check. Heighten the drama wherever you can.
Try this simple outline for each scene from Elaine Marie Alphin’s book, Creating Characters Kids will Love:

Main character’s thoughts and feelings
Show moves or gestures and facial expressions to show feelings

I prop Alphin’s book in front of me when I’m creating a scene. Her example on page nine is especially helpful, as this excerpt shows:

His sneakers were braced against the roof’s shingles. Slowly, Benjy took one hand off the sill and gripped a lower shingle instead. Then he took a deep breath, told himself very firmly not to be afraid, and let go of the sill with his other hand . . . Why couldn’t he have been a few inches taller? Benjy cursed his height silently. Even just a couple of inches would have meant his toes might have been able to feel the bench beneath him. But wishing wouldn’t make him grow.

8. Scrutinize every word. For example: Make sure you’ve cut out unnecessary prepositional phrases, haven’t overused adjectives as too many adjectives weaken nouns, haven’t relied on unnecessary words such as these words listed by author Margot Finke on her website: seemed; thought; started; might; she said; he saw; got and get. Use fresh figurative language; no clichés. Use clear, concise language that paints a picture. One editor described this in a way that you won’t easily forget: “Write it plain then make it fancy.”

9. Make sure every scene builds toward an explosive climax and satisfying ending.

10. Collect important information in one place to help write your letter to the publisher and market your book:

-The story problem
-The main character’s special need or flaw
-The theme: Does your theme clearly stand out (without stating it)?
-My favorite example is Bruce Coville’s, The Skull of Truth. Charlie Eggleston has a not-so-slight problem telling the truth. On page three “a familiar voice sneered, ‘Well, look here–it’s Charlie Eggleston, king of the liars.'” Telling the truth carries throughout the book; the last line finishes the theme off with, “And that was the absolute truth.” Even though ‘truth’ is brought out in many not-so subtle ways–it appears even in the title–the book is such fun to read, the message of ‘telling the truth’ is integral to the story and never stated.
-The encapsulation of your story in as few words as possible.
-The synopsis: Tell someone or say out loud what your book is about–not always easy for someone who expresses herself/himself on the page.
-The book jacket blurb.
-The list of characters, brief descriptions, their goals and their own character arc.
-The list of chapter titles and page numbers.

11. Tie up loose ends: Jot down each part of the action and goal of each character and make sure you’ve followed through.

12. Last but Most Important: Your first sentence and first chapter are the most important part of your book. Make sure they contain what is necessary to interest an editor and your reader. Somewhere in my research I read that Stephen King has been known to spend a year on the first chapter. That’s how important it is to get it right. There are very specific points editors look for that must be covered.

Here are samples from two books I use to help me get the correct information in the first sentence, first paragraph and first chapter. In the opening, a few sparse words establish “place,” establish a bond with the main character and tell you what the entire book is about.

The Green Ghost by Marion Dane Bauer. 1938.

“Papa! Look! isn’t it beautiful?” Lillian breathed the words, long and slow. In the cold air, her breath clouded the store window. She wiped it clear again with a corner of her scarf.

The cloak was beautiful. It was dark green wool . . . All that green made Lillian think of a Christmas tree.

We don’t know it yet, but we’ve met our ghost–she is the main character who came from an earlier time, 1938. In Chapter two we meet Kaye who is riding with her parents to her grandmother’s house for Christmas in a snow storm. While reading the book I thought Kaye was the main character. Later when I analyzed the story I realized that though most of the book was about Kaye, Lillian was the main character. She became the green ghost wearing the green cloak, which was made clear in the above first two paragraphs but was so subtle I didn’t catch it until I thought about it.

When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

Sun-hee (1940)
“It’s only a rumor,” Abuji said as I cleared the table. “They’ll never carry it out.”

In one amazing first sentence we learn what the book is about. The chapter goes on to explain the details about the rumor and how it is planned to be carried out. The theme is established on page two:

“Nobody ever told me anything. I always had to findout for myself. But at least I was good at it. You had to do two opposite things: be quiet and ask questions. And you had to know when to be quiet and who to ask.”

The next paragraph explains the details, and so on.

This posts was first published at: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2016/05/tips-on-polishing-your-novel.html

Children's authorLinda 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 is currently working on several projects for children. 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.


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Sep 27

Writing – Do Not Worry About Failures

“Don’t worry about failures; worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

Jack Canfield had a dream. He and co-author Mark Victor Hansen, both motivational speakers, compiled true inspirational stories from people in their audiences. They put these stories in a manuscript, called it Chicken Soup for the Soul, and sent it out to publishers.

They were rejected 144 times before a small publisher gave them a contract.

Imagine if they stopped after 10, 40, 80, 120 rejections.

Imagine if they let their failures dictate their lives.

They knew the true failure would be to not keep trying.

Even after they got a publishing contract, they marketed and marketed and marketed. They not only didn’t let failure stop them, they actively make their dream come true.

So, whether you’re a writer, an author, a marketer, or other, take actions steps, even if they’re small ones . . . and persevere.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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!


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Sep 21

What Do Fiction Writing and Film Editing Have in Common?

Writing Fiction and Film Editing

I read an interesting article on editing. Well, not just editing, but how to do it effectively. Did you know that in “Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola filmed and edited thousands and thousands of feet of film. Mental Floss puts the footage at 1.5 million feet.” (1)

So, why did Coppola take so much footage?

He took that much so that he’d have plenty of room for cutting. He could pick and choose what would make each scene the best it could be.

This is the same with writing fiction.

You might want to write more than you need so when you get into the editing phase, you can choose what will work and what won’t work for each scene. You’ll have plenty of content to make choices and get it just right.

For more on editing, check out:

Editing a Children’s Book – 10 Tips Checklist for Authors

Revisions and Editing – Do a Verb and Word Check

3 Reasons Editing Should Come Before Self-Publishing


(1) http://www.glimmertrain.com/bulletins/essays/b131boast.php

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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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Aug 29

Selling Middle Grade

In my last post, Writing Middle Grade, I wrote about a webinar I attended through Writer’s Digest. It was presented by literary agent Andrea Somberg and focused on writing and selling middle grade (MG). The first article is about writing MG. This article is about selling MG manuscripts.

To sell your manuscript, the manuscript itself needs to meet certain guidelines:

The first thing to be aware of is that publishers don’t want ‘trend’ books. The publishing process takes 1-2 years from contract to when the book is actually published for sale. Reader tastes can easily change within that time.

The second thing to be aware of is that the book buyers will be: parents, teachers, and librarians. This group of gate keepers don’t want sex, cursing, or graphic content in the story.

Another important element is to know your genre.

If you’re not sure whether your story is a MG or YA, or if it’s Young MG, MG, or Upper MG, figure it out before writing your query letter. You’ll also need to know whether your story is Contemporary, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Thriller, Historical, Horror, Adventure, Magical Realism, Humor, or other.

Your Opening Pages

  • Introduce your protagonist and make her sympathetic and interesting.
  • Be sure each sentence, each paragraph moves the story forward.
  • Each scene and interaction should move the story forward.
  • Every paragraph should have some tension bringing the story forward.
  • Avoid long sentences.
  • Avoid a lot of description.

The Story

Word count and pages:

  • Young MG: 15,000 to 25,000 words (approximately 64 pages).
    The age group is 8-10.
  • MG: 25,000 to 45,000 words (approximately 100 pages).
    The age group is 9-12.
  • Upper MG: 45,000 to 65,000 words (approximately 160 pages).
    The age group is 12-13.
  • Fantasy and sci-fi can go to 65,000 to 80,000 words.

More tips on the story:

  • The subject matter must be appropriate for the age group.
  • Avoid dream sequences.
  • The characters should be limited to a small group and/or family. Too many characters will make the read confusing and it will make it difficult to develop the characters enough.

Once you have a completed and polished your manuscript, the query letter is the first step in selling it.

The Query Letter – What to Include

After your middle grade manuscript is complete, you’ll need to write a query letter. While this information focuses on MG, it’s pretty much the same for any fiction manuscript.Address the agent’s name or editor’s name.

  1. Address the letter to a specific agent – use the agent’s name.

2. The first paragraph should include the title of the book; the type of book; comparable titles; and word count.

  • For the comp titles: Provide two to three comp titles that have been published with the last one to three years. Your book should be appealing to the same audience.

3. The second paragraph should be the pitch or “catalog copy” copy of your book. The ‘catalog copy’ is why the reader should buy your book. It’s the grabbing description of your book that would be in a book catalog.

  • Include the protagonist, what makes her sympathetic, what the conflict is (what are the stakes), and keep it between one and two paragraphs.
  • Read the descriptions of recently bought or published MGs. Watch how they word their descriptions. This should give you an idea of how to write yours.

4. The third paragraph is about the author. Make it pertinent – don’t include anything personal unless it’s essential to the book.

5. The fourth paragraph is the closing. You will thank the agent for their time.

Final tip on the query letter, don’t use qualifiers like engaging or hilarious. Let your description show the agent or editor that the story will be engaging and/or hilarious. They don’t want you to tell them.

What to Avoid in a Query Letter?

  1. Avoid grandiose claims
  2. No gimmicks. Keep it clear and concise
  3. Personalize the letter. Address it to the agent. Don’t cc multiple agents
  4. Don’t begin the query with a rhetorical question.
  5. Even if you have a series in mind or have started a second book, only pitch one book at a time. With that said, you can mention that the book would lend itself to a series.
  6. If you’re already published, mention the book: the title, publisher, and year.

Finding a Literary Agent

  1. Check out Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
  2. Try to get referrals from other authors.
  3. Look at the acknowledgement pages of published books similar to yours.
  4. Research agents’ websites.
  5. Watch sites like Publishers Market Place.

What to Do When Submitting

  1. Follow the agent’s submission guidelines.
  2. Only submit to one agent at a time to a particular agency.
  3. If allowed, send the opening pages of your manuscript. Don’t attach it though; put it in the body of the email.
  4. Be patient. I can take well over a month before you get a response.
  5. Submit to multiple agents simultaneously.

I hope this helps you get your middle grade manuscript in the hands of an agent and/or publisher.

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.


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Aug 09

Written a Picture Book? Are Illustrations or Layout Next?


Picture books, illustrations, and layout

I read an interesting article from a self-publishing service (1106 Design). The article explains that the best way to produce a children’s picture book is to create the interior layout before getting the illustrations done.

This is something I hadn’t thought of. But it makes so much sense.

I write a lot of stories for clients, but that’s usually the end of my involvement.

Well, I do provide a list of illustrators and book designers to work with after they have a completed manuscript. But I usually don’t go beyond that.

I provide the list because I know most people new to the writing arena and those who have their stories ghostwritten aren’t aware of the next steps. They need help.

The DIY Beginning – Start with the Story

The first step to self-publishing a picture book is writing the story or having it ghostwritten.

Once that’s done, the author hires an illustrator who creates the interior illustrations, and usually the front and back covers.

Number of Illustrations, What Size, and the Layout

At this point, the author needs to discuss with the illustrator how the book is to be laid out.

Does the author want an illustration on each page? On every other page?

Keep in mind that having an illustration on every other page cuts the number of interior illustrations needed in half. This cuts the cost for interior illustrations in half. This is a huge factor and the decision is usually based on the budget of the author.

Once that’s decided, the illustrator and author decide if full-page or half-page illustrations should be used, or a quarter-page, or a combination.

From the article I mentioned early, it’s best to let the illustrator layout the pages for the text and illustrations. It creates a much more professional and engaging finished product.

If you look at books like The Berenstain Bears or “D.W The Picky Eater” by Marc Brown, or even Sophia Mouse, which is a simple chapter book, the text can be anywhere on the page. But it needs to work with the illustrations.

You want to be able to easily read the text. It shouldn’t blend into the illustration.

This is why it’s a good idea to have your illustrator create the layout before actually creating the illustrations. This way the illustrations fit the space allotted for them.

A great way for you to determine how you want your picture book to look is to do some research. Find books that you like and let your illustrator know what look you’d like to go for.

A number of illustrators who are on the list I provide my clients include the text in the illustrations.

Your Illustrations are Done

Once the illustrations are done, the illustrator will give you a PDF file that you will send off to the book designer and/or book formatter.

If your illustrator JUST provides the illustrations, you will need to hand over the manuscript and the illustrations separately. The book designer will put it together, asking you where you want the text (on which pages and where on the pages).

It’s much easier if you work with an illustrator who includes the text in the illustrations.

When done, the book formatter or designer will give you print-ready files for ebook upload and print upload to sites like Amazon (retailer) or IngramSpark (aggregator).

You will take the print-ready files and upload them to whatever retailer or book distributor you intend to use.

This is the Do-It-Yourself way.

An Alternative

If the above seems like too much work, you do have an option: hire a self-publishing company to do it all for you.

Author be aware!

There are A LOT of companies out there that just want your money. So, BUYER BEWARE.

Research, research, research self-publishing companies before handing over your money.

Once you find a reputable company, they will take your manuscript and illustrations and put the book together for you.

Some of these companies even offer interior illustrations, making your life even easier.

Just be sure the self-publishing company handles children’s picture books. This is very important.

One company that looks reputable is 1106Design.com. I’m hoping to get the chance to work with them one of these days so I’ll be able to let you know how it goes.

Also, keep in mind that the convenience comes at a price. You’ll need a hefty budget.

AGAIN, be careful.

To read the article I referred to, click the link: https://www.1106design.com/2017/01/25/want-to-publish-a-beautiful-childrens-book-heres-how

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.


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Aug 02

Writing Ideas – 5 Ways to Find Them

6 Ways to Find Writing Ideas

Contributed by Debra Eckerling

While you can use activity to find inspiration and breathe life into your projects, sometimes what you really need is a new idea.

Whether you are writing blog posts, prose, or long-form fiction or non-fiction, sometimes you need to go back to basics and find a kernel of an idea to get you started.

Here are 5 places to find ideas, as well as how to use them for non-fiction or fiction.

  1. Explore Social media. See what’s up on your favorite social media pages and groups.

Non-Fiction: Check out which newbies are doing what in your field. Then, reach out to some of these up-and-comers, and see if they would be interested in being interviewed This could turn out to be a profile for your blog, an article to pitch, or a feature that includes several people doing interesting things in your field.

Fiction: Social media is a great place to seek out character traits, including descriptions, hobbies, and even jobs. Sometimes a great character is all you need for a fabulous story.

  1. Read Books. Writers should be readers.

Non-Fiction: Write a list post of books to recommend your readers. Lump books together on a certain theme or topic. Start with ideas that interest you, because, if you get excited about a topic, it’s likely your readers will too.

Fiction: Pick a page, a paragraph, and a line in a random book on your shelf. Or go to a library and pick something new. That line is the start of your next story or novel. Okay, this may not work for a long-form project, but when you give yourself the mandate to write at least a few pages about any random thing, it will certainly rev up your creativity.

  1. Watch Videos. Dive into someone else’s world.

Non-Fiction: Take a topic you’ve always been curious about or find a person who seems interesting, do a search, and watch some videos. Something within this exploration will make a good topic.

Fiction: This is a great place to people-watch (and find character traits) without leaving the comfort of home. Since this is a visual medium, pay close attention to the way people interact. Look at body language and listen for dialects.

  1. Have a Conversation. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Or else, strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line.

Non-Fiction: You never know what you can discover about someone unless you really pay attention when they speak. This person may have a great lead for a post idea …or this person may be that great idea!

Fiction: Take someone’s story and fictionalize it: minimize or exaggerate it! Have fun with this one.

  1. Make a List. Write a list of anything that has ever piqued your curiosity.

Non-Fiction: Pick something at random to learn and then write about it. If it’s a long-term project, write a monthly update on your progress.

Fiction: Challenge yourself to write a story incorporating no fewer than 20 items on the list. Feeling gutsy? Go for 50.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The more you seek them out, you will see that ideas are everywhere.

Where do you go to find ideas, especially when ideas elude you? Share your recommendations in the comments.

This article was first published at:

Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals. A writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of the DEB METHOD and Write On Online, Deb works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and #GoalChatLive on Facebook, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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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Jul 26

6 Must-Know Book Marketing Basics

Book Marketing

As a children’s ghostwriter, I’ve written well over 300 stories for clients.

The thing I notice is that most of my clients don’t realize that simply writing a book doesn’t guarantee any sales.

It can be an excellent, high-quality book, but there are just too many books in cyber-space to be noticed. You’re just a tiny speck in the cyber sky.

So, what are some of the basic ways an author can bring attention to her book?

Let’s go over 6 of the basics.

  1. The very first thing is to create a quality book.

This means the story, grammar, illustrations (if applicable), and front and back covers, must be quality.

It might be tempting to forgo editing or go with a less than quality cover, but if you’re investing your time and effort into a book, do it right.

You may need to invest some money to produce a professional looking book that’s a quality read, but it will be worth it.

You will want to be proud to be author of your book.

  1. You should have an author website.

It doesn’t have to be a elaborate site or cost any money. You can create one yourself for free with sites like, Weebly, WordPress.com, GoDaddy, Blogger, Yola, and Wix. You can also do an online search to find others.

You can think of your website as your online home. It will be the home of your book.

  1. It can be a simple website.

The site can simply have a Home page or landing page with your book, the book’s description, book reviews (if you have any), and an image of the book cover and possibly the back cover.

You’ll also need to link to where the reader can buy your book.

This is a super-simple site, but at least you’ll have an online presence for your book.

If you need help creating your site, look for a web designer just starting out or maybe someone you know of, or someone who does it in their spare time.

If you have multiple books, you’ll want to create a webpage for each one. So, be sure whichever website builder you use offers that feature.

  1. Share your website.

Create little blurbs about your book and share (post) it on social media, linking back to your website.

It’s also a good idea to include an image of your book in the social media posts.

  1. Videos are powerful.

Even if you have a one-page website, include a video on it.

A video helps people get to know you and your book. It can be a simple 60 to 90 second clip about your book, or why you wrote it, or if applicable, how it will benefit the reader.

You can use your webcam on your computer or your iPhone.

You might even upload the video to YouTube and your social networks.

  1. Get reviews of your book.

Reviews are very powerful. They let people know that the book is a good read (hopefully it is). People buy books based on book reviews.

To find out how to get book reviews, check out Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s book: How To Get Great Book Reviews.

Taking advantage of these tips will help get your book noticed. They don’t guarantee sales, but without taking some form of book marketing action, you’re guaranteed not to sell any.

Get your book marketing strategy started today!


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

Build Your Author/Writer Platform

Karen Cioffi will show you how to build your author platform

This e-class is 4-weeks, in-depth, and interactive. It covers all the tools you’ll need to build visibility and traffic, and boost sales.

CLICK THE LINK BELOW to check out all it includes!

If you want to check out other author platform classes I offer, check out:

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Jul 19

Writing Critique Groups – Dos and Don’ts

Critiques and Authors

Contributed by Linda Wilson

The purpose of a critique is to sift out what’s wrong. Showcased is your polished masterpiece, ready for publication. Explore your options until you find the most effective, longest lasting way to vet your work.

While working as a freelance writer, my family moved frequently. Luckily, through membership with organizations such as SCBWI, I found a writing group at each juncture. The information gathered here comes from my own membership in different types of groups.

Join a Critique Group or Start your Own. Gather interested prospective members. Make sure each writer is:

-Serious: willing to devote time studying her craft while practicing it.
Dependable: can be counted on to come to meetings and review members’ work.

-Honest: willing to let members know where she stands, as a beginner, intermediate or advanced writer.
Open: lets members know ahead of time what type of writing she would like to have reviewed.

-Communicative: gives her input on everything from critiquing to helping to run the group.

Establish a leader.

Decide how many members are desired.

Decide the type of writing preferred, if any. For example:

-Open Group: Allows all kinds of writing at any level. The advantages are many.

The variety of different types of writing gives the group widely varying points of view. One of the groups I belonged to had a poet, three article writers, and an adult novelist. The group expanded my world.

-Closed Group: Offers members who write only in your genre and are at about the same level. Advantages include powerful know-how in your genre. Potential for longer critiques is possible. Partnering among members is possible for more frequent and indepth critiques. Also, members can help each other stay abreast of conferences, webinars, informational books, etc.

When I wrote biosketches for Biography Today, I had deadlines which weren’t easy to keep because of my daughters’ activities. My writing partner spent one entire day helping me crank out one of my assignments so I could meet the deadline. Whew!

Agree on one of the following:

-No Homework: a writer brings a chapter, a section or a few pages of a work to be read on the spot. The writer can read her own work or ask another member to read it. During the reading, each member takes notes on a separate piece of paper. After the reading the members go round- robin to share their notes then give their note paper to the writer to take home.

-Homework: each piece of writing is emailed to members by an agreed-upon date, no exceptions. Members critique the work at home and share their results at the meeting. Members’ copies are then given to the writer to take home. Writer brings her own copy of her work so she can follow along during the critiques. Critiquer is given a specified amount of time to explain her critique and the writer is given a specific amount of time to ask questions or comments. I’ve belonged to both types of groups and really have no preference. I found both Open and Closed Groups effective as long as they were run productively.

-A timer: members agree on the amount of time given to each critiquer. Enough time is given so that no one feels rushed. There can be exceptions, along as everyone agrees, if a writer needs more time. However, this is an important rule, especially if the group is large. Everyone deserves a critique. There is nothing worse than having one person take up so much time that the meeting either lasts too long (and everyone gets exhausted, which can weaken enthusiasm), or there isn’t enough time for everyone to share their work.

-Cut the Chit Chat: be firm about saving chit chat for later because it’s easy to fall into this trap and lose the main purpose for meeting.
Food or No Food: meet at a public place, if possible, such as a room at the library. Meeting in people’s homes can be way too comfortable. These kinds of meetings can incur a serious loss of productivity. One of my favorite groups solved this by having two pot luck meetings a year, summer and winter, at lunchtime. We still worked but relaxed and visited. We even brought white elephant gifts for our winter get-together (in someone’s home) during the holidays.

-Show, don’t tell: spend one (or more) entire revision sit-downs combing your ms for “telling” statements. Turn those into “showing” your readers what’s going on.

-Nonfiction articles: one editor’s advice was simple. Answer the W’s in the first two (or three) paragraphs. Then the rest of your article is the How.

-Nonfiction articles and books: Before embarking on your idea (and spending time on it), make sure you have acquired the photos.

Write it plain, then make it pretty: I heard this during an editor’s talk and have followed it ever since. It’s a great tool. The first time(s) “getting it down” you can’t possibly expect your writing to shine. All you’re doing is pouring your soul onto paper. After you’re sure you’ve written everything you want to say, put your ms for a rest. When you pick it up again, make your writing more interesting; splather your personality all over the page; give it your all.

-Entertain your reader: Just like being a host at a party; if you’re having fun, your reader will have fun.

When in doubt, research: if you’re stuck (have writer’s block) it might mean that you need to do more research. Fiction and nonfiction alike both have to be accurate, so perhaps you need to spend some time looking something up to learn more about it. If you’re stuck on a non-research-type problem, then you might need to rest a bit and do a THINK. One of my writing instructors talked about BIG THINKS a lot. We all keep pen and paper with us at all times. Who knows, you might solve the problem by suggesting what you need before you go to sleep at night. The problem could be solved in the morning or in a few days, depending on the size of the problem. If you can identify the problem as a plot problem, a characterization problem, etc., then study the area in question. You might find your answer there. I think we all know, too, that often our answers come while we’re sewing, doing a flower arrangement, or on a walk. So sometimes it’s best to do something else that’s creative to relax your mind. It often kickstarts your imagination into doing wondrous things.

-Sit your reader down across the table: and talk to him. Tell him your story. You can try this out loud if you’ve come to a snag.

Write while sitting on the edge of your seat: that’s how you want your reader to be, so engrossed in your story that their eyes light up and their super excited about your story.

Remember this wisdom from Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

This article was first published at:


Author Linda Wilson

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. Wilson’s first ghostly mystery chapter book is out! is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

This article was first published at: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2015/11/critique-groups-dos-and-donts.html

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.


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Storytelling – Don’t Let the Reader Become Disengaged

Writing Fiction and Writing Nonfiction – Similarities and Differences

Writing – It’s Not Wise to Revise Too Soon


Jul 12

5 Power-Tips to Creating Memorable Characters

From the simplest clues, a character can take shape.

Maybe you first reference the character as the boy or the tall girl. Even with those simple words, you’ve given that character life.

Before that, there wasn’t a boy or a tall girl.

But along with things (characteristics) you should include, there are a number of things you should avoid when writing your characters.

  1. Don’t over-dump physical details.

An example of this might be: Raul was tall and thin with green eyes and dark brown hair, and a swimmer’s body.

While you won’t be able to get that all in within one scene, to convey his height you might write:

When the other boys couldn’t reach the shelf, Raul got the paper airplane down. “Good thing you’re tall,” said Shawn.

To convey his hair color:

From the back, Mrs. Stenzer couldn’t tell which boy was Raul. They all had dark brown hair and were medium height.

To convey his body type:

Raul was the only new kid on the swim team to already have a swimmer’s body.

If you need or want to let the reader know the physical characteristics of the characters in your story, simply work that information in. Without dumping it.

  1. Avoid being too vague.

While you don’t need to convey every detail of a character, you can give enough to give the reader an idea of the character’s physical attributes. The reader can then fill in the details.

Two examples of this might be:

His neat cut in the back and sides was in contrast to the long hair in front that fell below his brows.

He stretched his swimmer’s body then raced into the ocean.

  1. Include the character’s environment.

A character may live in a low-income building, possibly a Section 8 apartment. Another may live in the back woods of Appalachian Mountains. All this will give insight into the character.

Or maybe the character lives in a penthouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Or, possibly a character lives in Saipan.

The character’s environment can include his past environment also.

A book I’m writing now has one of the characters going from a rich lifestyle to a poor one. This could tell a lot about why the character may behave in a certain way or why she’s depressed.

Another scenario may be that the protagonist was on a swimming team since he was seven. This will tell a lot about this teen’s character. It takes discipline and drive to be a competitive swimmer. It will also have a large factor on his physical appearance.

  1. Include the character’s close relationships or past relationships.

How your character engages with the different people in his family, friends, and toward new people will show different facets of his character.

The friends he hangs around with will also show his tendencies and character. The expression ‘birds of a feather flock together’ can play a factor in the character’s character.

  1. Include appearance, clothes, and even sundry items.

How you describe your character’s appearance can tell a lot about that character.

Are his clothes neat and ironed, with shirt tucked inside his pants? Does he use starch? Or is he unkempt? Are his clothes wrinkled with shirt partially tucked in or not tucked in at all?

What about her hair. Is it a mess? Does it look dirty? Or is it well groomed?

What about his hair? Is it short? Is it long? Is it well kept?

What does she keep in her pockets or purse? What does he keep in his backpack? Is there always a pack of gum? Is there breath mints? Do they always have a candy bar on them? What about a comb?

The list can go on and on. And each little item give another clue as to the character’s character.

These are just five tips on how to use description to enhance your readers’ view of your characters. There are others, but this should give you a good foundation on creating engaging characters.


Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 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.


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Creating Your Main Character – Hit a Home Run

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Jul 05

Get Clear about Your Ultimate Writing Goals

writing success

Contributed by Suzanne Lieurance

As a writer, it can take quite some time to come up with an ultimate career goal.

After months, even years, of writing and submitting, many writers decide the writer’s life is not quite the beautiful dream they thought it would be.

In fact, it’s really just a lot of hard work and, well, a lot of writing.

Other writers decide to stick with the writing, but they change focus along the way to the career of their dreams.

They suddenly “get” how they can narrow the focus of their writing, yet attract more readers, customers, and clients.

As they gain more publication credits, they branch out and search for more opportunities for public speaking, too.

The key to realizing your ultimate career goal is to get really, really clear as to just what that goal is.

After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you possibly figure out how to get there?

Here are a few questions for reflection.

Use your Success Journal to write down these questions and leave a page or so for each of your answers.

  1. What is your ultimate career goal (what would your ideal writing career look like)?

Try to describe this in as much detail as possible.

Include what your writing schedule would look like.

How much would you be writing?

What would you be writing?

Where would you be writing?

How much money would you be earning each month from your writing?

Would you be doing any public speaking in addition to writing?

If so, where would you be speaking? Who would you be speaking to?

How much income would you earn each year through speaking?

  1. What would be the big advantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many advantages as you can think of. Money shouldn’t be the only advantage.

  1. What would be the disadvantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many disadvantages as you can think of – even fame and fortune have disadvantages.

  1. How do you FEEL when you think of the disadvantages of your ultimate career goal?

Are these feelings keeping you from really striving to reach your ultimate career goal?

If so, do you need to change your goal or simply learn to overcome any negative feelings?

  1. Take a look at all the actions on your marketing plan or to-do list.

Are these actions leading you to the ultimate writing career you’ve described in your answers to these questions?

Why or why not? Explain in detail.

Your answers to these questions should help you get clearer about your ultimate career goal.

With increased clarity, you should be able to create a more targeted marketing plan to move toward this goal.

Try it!

This post was first published at:

Suzanne Lieurance lives and writes by the sea on Florida’s beautiful Treasure Coast. She also coaches writers.

For more tips and resources for writers visit www.writebythesea.com and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge to receive a short email for writers every weekday morning.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. 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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