September 1, 2016

Enrich Your Stories

Do you ever have trouble coming up with new descriptions for your story?  Here's an idea.  The next time you attend any event like a ball game, an art fair, or a concert take note of your surroundings.  When you return home, make a list.  Keep it handy if you want to add a description to your story.  You can enrich your stories by using the five senses. 

I recently attended the Western Southern Tennis Open with my family.  It was a damp, overcast evening with several rain delays.  

Here are the five senses at the Open. 

See:  the sky streaked with dark-gray rain clouds, a rainbow piercing a cloud, a brightly lit tennis court and stadium, fans wearing ponchos, women in wedges and rain boots, a booth selling plastic cups of Mo√ęt & Chandon champagne, ponds of mud in the grass parking lot

I Feel:  raindrops sprinkling my face, damp metal bleacher seats puddled with water, beads of moisture on seat backs, damp tennis shoes

I Smell: the air scented with summer rain, fried food from food court, the grass parking lot reeking of barnyard odor

I Taste:  cold mint ice cream in a waffle cone, spicy Skyline chili topped with cheddar cheese, salty oyster crackers, warm bottled water

I Hear:  feet trudging through muddy muck, music blasting from a loud speaker, boisterous applause from audience, tennis balls whacked across the net, yawns as we pile into the car to head home late at night







August 15, 2016

A Writing Challenge

We are busy people.  Day in, day out—we've got so much to do.  At times, we can be self-absorbed.  We dwell on our own lives and problems.  And we forget about others. But I challenge you to put the things you need to do aside and do something nice for someone else.  Carve out a brief period of time for others and do what you do best: write.  
Compose a note to a friend, a neighbor, or a relative.  Email is okay, but stationary or a card is even better. Tell someone that you’ve been thinking about them. Send a thank you note to someone if they have sent you a gift or if they have done something nice for you. Wish someone good health if they’ve been ill.  Write as much as you like.  Even one line would suffice.  

Believe it or not, your words will have a huge impact.  It will brighten someone else’s day. And you won't have to sacrifice much time to write a note.  So, what do you think?  Are you up to the writing challenge? Are you up to spreading a little kindness?

August 1, 2016

Let's Talk about Dialogue

In a story, dialogue can be defined as a conversation of two or more people.  The words spoken aloud by characters are indicated by quotation marks.  Sometimes, a character is alone and talks to himself.  This can be expressed in italics.

When you create dialogue you get to climb inside characters’ heads and express what they are thinking.  In turn, your audience then gets to know the characters’ personalities.

But there are some writers who overdo dialogue. Too much dialogue robs stories of narrative—the descriptions, actions, and setting needed to create an intriguing atmosphere.  Though dialogue is an essential part of telling a fictional story for kids, non-stop conversation can be annoying.

Dialogue should be balanced with narrative.  A narrative is the story that you write with detail.  It can explain something, describe a place, or convey the way a person looks or behaves.  It can express an action significant to the story.  

So look at your story objectively.  Do you have too much dialogue?  If so, break it up with description and action.  Describe some details of the setting.  Explain what the characters are doing.  Your job as a writer is to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative.  There is no rule to the percentage of dialogue to narrative because every genre is different; however, a 50 -50 ratio of dialogue to narrative is something you can aim for.  

July 15, 2016

So You Think You Can Write

A lot of people think it’s easy to write for kids.  For example, a good friend of mine wrote a picture book, even though she has no experience in writing fiction.  A few weeks ago we spent an hour going over her manuscript line by line. 

These were my suggestions:      

Do not paginate. Instead, double-space the entire manuscript. 
Avoid fancy fonts. Use Times New Roman, twelve point font. 
Type the title in caps, not it large, bold font.
Use age-appropriate words, but do not dummy down the language.
Keep the verb tense consistent.
Create a goal or something that the main character wants.  
Create a conflict or dilemmas which will make the goal more difficult to attain.
Keep the word count well under 1000 words. 
Make the story unique so that it will stand out and not get lost in the slush pile.
Have a satisfying ending.  Add a twist if possible or a tie-in to the beginning.

Though the manuscript had some problems, there were many good things about the story.  The descriptions were colorful and the main character could be relatable to young kids.  The story also had great illustration potential. 

I told my friend she was off to a good start.  She thanked me for helping her and asked if she could have my notes.  She knew she would have to spend more time editing her work, especially since she planned on submitting it for publication.  She realized that there is a lot to consider when writing for kids.  

July 1, 2016

Write

Two weeks ago, I lost my sister-in-law Barb to cancer.  She had been diagnosed in February, and then four months later she passed away.  This was crazy fast.

Her untimely death sent me reeling.  She was relatively young by today’s standards, only 60, much younger than me.  So…it’s made me think about life more, what I want to do and to achieve.  For me, I’ve always wanted to publish a picture book, and now, I am more determined. 

Writing is my passion and I hope it is yours, too.  So my advice to you is to write every day.  No excuses.  Just put a few words down daily even if you don’t feel like it (you can always edit later.)  Create new fiction.  Edit older projects.  Or, get started on a topic that you’ve always wanted to research and write about it. 

Submit your work continuously, non-stop.  If your dream is to get published in a children’s magazine, then study the markets, submit and submit and persevere until your work is accepted.  If you want to get a book published, polish it until it is perfect, have a second reader review it, edit it again, and then search the directories for agents.  Don't give up.

I urge you know to think about your writing dreams and pursue them.  We never know what the future will hold.  Life is short.  Live it.  Live it well.  And write. 


June 15, 2016

Cheating

Most people know that thorough research is needed when writing nonfiction for children.  That means writers must use a variety of primary sources, reliable websites, and trustworthy books because research requires diligent and careful study to investigate a subject and to establish facts.  Those who use one source violate the rules of research.  One source wouldn’t provide enough information needed to research a topic adequately.   

However, there are a few writers who think that one source should do the trick.  These writers are either unaware of what is required for research, or they are just plain lazy.  Either way, a nonfiction submission with one resource will usually end up being rejected.

When I encounter nonfiction submissions for Kid’s Imagination Train that have only used one source, I am not impressed.  These submissions tell me two things:  our guidelines have not been read and the authors don’t understand how to research a topic. But...these writers are given another chance to improve their work and to submit again.  They are asked to use more sources and develop the article by adding more interesting facts. 

Most of the time writers will comply and resubmit a well-researched piece.  But in some cases, writers merely just add a couple more books to the bibliography without incorporating any new information.  Shocking, yes?  It happens.  To be blunt, these kinds of writers are cheaters.  They are cheating themselves of learning some pretty cool stuff when researching.  They are also cheating themselves of the satisfaction and pride that comes from digging deep.  More, they are cheating children of rich details and interesting information they so wholeheartedly deserve.


June 1, 2016

Submitting to Agents

Are you submitting your work to agents?  Bravo!  Hopefully, you will hear good news. But what if an agent is not too eager to take on your project.  How would you be notified? Here are three scenarios:

1.  No reply.  Agents will only respond when they are interested.  No word = no thank you.  

2.  The standard rejection form.  It might read:  Thank you for submitting but unfortunately it doesn't meet our needs at this time.  

3.  The rejection letter with a little note.  These emails are personalized and give advice or a word of support. 

It is disappointing, but fairly common not to hear back from an agent.  So if you haven't gotten a response in about three months, consider it a pass.

A good number of agents will usually send a rejection letter.  Even though they've passed on your work, you will know that they received your submission and it had been considered.   

Occasionally, a rejection letter may arrive personally addressed to you along with a little note.  A note takes the sting out of the rejection.  It could read:  shape this piece, or this work has potential, or this project sounded interesting.  You may even get advice, and if you do, consider revising your manuscript. 

Though it is a pass on your project, a personalized rejection is an awesome thing to receive.  An agent has made time to send you feedback.  A personal message will remind you that others think your work has potential.  It may offer hope and validation.  It will boost your faith as a writer.  And more, it will give you courage to keep on submitting.