Our Children Need Good Writers

By Tammy Trail

My contribution to the blog this month is writing for children and teens. Now, I have never considered writing for this genre. I’m a historical fiction gal. I purposely pick a subject matter that I know nothing about in order to learn something new. Well, this topic did not fail in that regard. As I do my research, I am finding that my assumption that writing for children must be easier than writing for adults is proven wrong.

Depending on the age group of the children, you may develop a strong idea for a board book for infants. Picture books with a simplistic story are great as easy readers targeted at ages from 3-6 years old. Chapter books for the grade school years. Then young teens for ages 12-16.  From there on it’s considered a young adult market.

Books are not the only venue for writing for children, there are magazines, comics, curriculum, and devotionals. I think retired educators would be perfect at writing for children’s magazines like Highlights, and Ladybug. These are directed towards getting children excited about learning at an early age.

morgue file

With a full novel the story premise is still the same. Strong, likable characters who are flawed and must overcome an obstacle. A plot driven story can be just as important for children and teens as it is for adult fiction writing. The difference is that with children, you can have a mouse be the main character. Our favorite was “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” His objective was of course to get a cookie, and in the process one event leads to another in this funny, engaging story.

With teens, it becomes a little more involved. A story starts out with the character following their ordinary day, and the teen is put into a new situation, or meets someone who is very different from themselves. Most of the antagonists are adults, who will stand in the way of teenage goals. The teen is faced with an overwhelming obstacle that he/she must overcome on their own or with the help of friends.

Think of “Harry Potter.” Although his life was not ordinary at all, he was mistreated by the people he lived with for years. Once he became a certain age, his life took a turn, with a new school, friends, enemies, and a huge obstacle with multiple quests he had to accomplish until the final showdown. This is the formula for most teen series publications.

When researching this topic, I used “Writing Children’s Books for Dummies.” It has an exhaustive amount of information on how to begin your journey. The other was, “Getting Started in Writing for Children.”

There are many magazines that publish for the Christian Children’s market as well.  Focus on the Family has several. And there are writer’s guides and directories available to help a novice writer.  For online guides and directories, there are:

  • Children’s Book Council (www.cbcbooks.org).
  • Literary Market Place (www.literarymarketplace,com)
  • Publishers Marketplace (www.publishersmarketplace.com)
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.abwi.org)

I shared just a few of the resources available. I hope you will learn as much as I did on this topic when you delve into the research. It’s a hard market, but publishers are always looking for fresh ideas, and you just might have one.

Click to tweet: A Child’s Tale: Writing for Children. #amwriting #children’sbooks

Writing prompt: Research one children’s magazine. Write for them and submit.

A Little Sparkle In My Life

Before I tried my hand at writing, I belonged to a women’s bible study group. In this group were women of different ages, backgrounds, denominations, and faith levels. I learned a lot about God, the Bible, and jewelry.  Yes, you read that right.  One of the lovely ladies in the group is a wonderful designer and maker of beaded jewelry. I always admired the pieces she made. Then my new friend Valerie invited me to her home to learn to make some jewelry of my own, and I was hooked.

So when I’m not writing, working, or spending time with my grandsons, I’m making jewelry pieces for myself, or as gifts for friends and family.

I’m going to attempt to show you through pictures how it is done. Here are some of the supplies needed. There are wire cutters, needle nose pliers, and regular pliers.  Some coiled wire, beads, charms, and a head pin.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the beads and charms close up. First I cut a length of wire off the coil that went two and half times around my wrist. Then with my straight nose pliers, I bend one end.

Take the round ended pliers and made a curl in it. This is the hardest part, because this wire does not manipulate well at all.

At the open end of the wire you can string your beads.

I used a total of 17 beads, cut the wire again, made another loop, and attached it to the other end. The bracelet is expandable. The charms add a bit of interest that I like. If you are interested in learning more about making your own jewelry, there are tons of YouTube videos you can watch, and your favorite craft store sells most supplies.

I hope you liked seeing a bit of my hobby. It can be very rewarding after a piece is finished. I like the creative part of making jewelry. You can match it to your own taste and wardrobe.

Happy Summer! 🙂

Writing Prompt:

Valerie danced about the room, pour lemonade in tall glasses for her guest. She suddenly remembered that she had forgotten the napkins, and set the pitcher down at the sideboard to retrieve the them from the kitchen counter. As she swept the napkins off the counter she noticed that her favorite piece of jewelry was missing. She spied the ladies enjoying their refreshment and wondered…………( please fill in the blank)……

Click-to-Tweet: #A Little Sparkle In My Life. #What I do when I’m not Writing.

E-book Publishing: It’s Easier Than You Think.

This time last year, I was sweating and pounding a keyboard to get my manuscript for my American Revolutionary story, “Patriot Hearts” done. I submitted my story to another author who was putting together a collection of stories with a patriotic theme in order to publish it on Amazon. I sent her the first three chapters to see if my story would be a good fit, and the rest is history. Pun intended.

This was my first experience with the e-book world. I wish I could report that the book did well, and I am plagued by requests for more of my storytelling. But that is not the case, I found that while some of my Beta readers claimed they couldn’t put the book down. I had one writer friend tell me that the story is good, but my characters are flat and would benefit from a deeper point of view.

I’m telling you this story about my experience with e-book publishing to say that the journey is worth the risk if you learn something from it. Which I did. Would I do it again? Yes.

Publishing an e-book is now easier than ever. The stigma of self-publishing has diminished too. With major publishing houses limiting their publishing abilities to protect themselves economically, e-book publishing has become a necessity for some authors. Many of these venues will help with step-by-step instructions, marketing, book covers, and promotions.

The most popular venue for publishing an e-book is with KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing. You can make up to 70 % of royalties from you book. You set the price and can make changes anytime. There is no cost to the author to publish and it takes less than five minutes. Your book is available for sale 24 to 48 hours after you upload in Kindle, worldwide.

The downside to publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing is the Select option. If you choose to use this option, you cannot distribute your work to other venues. They will have exclusive rights to your work as far as sales and distribution.

Smashwords is another publishing option. It has the convenience of Amazon, but the difference is your book will be distributed by Smashwords to many venues. Some of these are well known, like Nook for Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo and Overdrive.

You can also publish with KDP and Smashwords for more exposure, just don’t opt for the Kindle Unlimited plan if you also want to publish on Smashwords.  You can promote your book with free marketing tools, such as; a coupon generator, special pricing deals, and giveaways to use in conjunction with your website for promotions. Smashwords will also generate sales by having special promotions where they will pick a genre, like “romance” and everything in that genre is a percentage off in order to help drive those sales.

A new buzzword in book sales is Audio books. When I think of this publishing option my mind conjures up images of people who love stories, but don’t necessarily have time to read a book in print. Audio books are perfect for those folks on the go. I can see the endless possibilities of learning non-fiction information with this concept.

I have researched Audio books, and it’s not very easy to do this yourself. There are options available, but from what I have read the quality of doing this yourself is just not right yet. Of course they said this about publishing e-books years ago. So, technology will catch up. But in the meantime, if this is an option you would like to try, professional equipment is best.

Writing prompt: Your new neighbor has moved in and you have not met. You decide to bake your blue ribbon coffee cake as a “Welcome Wagon” gift. After ringing the door bell, the door opens to your old high school flame who dumped you for the Prom Queen.

Click to Tweet: Publishing an e-book is now easier than ever. #IndiePublish #amwriting

Which Editor Will You Choose?

I will admit right up front that hiring an editor intimidates me to no end. I just don’t know where to begin. There is so much advice and so many suggestions out there in the writing world that it’s hard for me to decipher which direction I should go.

This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. There are different types of editors, who specialize in different areas of the creation process. Let’s look at a few.

A DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR: Helps a writer with structure and content of a manuscript. This editor looks at the pacing, plot, characterization, and setting of your manuscript. They will also assist you in finding a vision for your story.

A COPY EDITOR: Much like a proofreader, they check spelling and grammar. They also check jargon, terminology, semantics, and formatting. Any factual data in text is also checked for accuracy as there could be a potential legal issue which is then brought to the publisher’s attention for correction.

A LINE EDITOR: This editor looks at voice in your manuscript and focuses on the quality and strength of your story. A line editor will look for sentences that don’t flow well, or cliches in your work. Also, they will look for repetition of sentences, and at each of your words and how they are used to help you tell the best story, so your readers understand it.

A PROOFREADER: Reads copy and transcripts for spelling and grammar errors. They work for publishers, newspapers, and other places that rely on perfect grammar printing. Proofreading is also the final stage to ensure a manuscript or article is well written and has a logical structure. They really do make sure that those editors mentioned above have done their jobs, and your story is ready for print.

AN ACQUISITIONS EDITOR: This editor is part of a publishing team to acquire manuscripts for publication. They work in book publishing companies, literary agencies, universities, and professional institutes. They evaluate manuscripts for their commercial potential, and approach authors when a publisher is interested in their work. They build relationships between authors, agents, and publishing houses. Part of their job may also include collaborating with marketing teams.

What if you’re not quite ready for the editing stage of your book? Focus on making it the best product you can before an editor gets into the picture. Working with your critique partners or a trusted friend who believes in you helps a great deal. Microsoft has a feature in it that will speak each word of print in your manuscript, so listen carefully. You might find areas of your story that just don’t flow well, or don’t sound as smooth when it’s read back to you. You can pause the feature and correct it as you go. Self editing can be bewildering, and stressful. Doing your very best before hiring an editor can be a teachable experience, and may save you headaches in the long run. Remember, an editor is there to help you create the best product you can.

Writing prompt:  Tell me a funny editing story.

Click to Tweet: This month we are looking at editing possibilities and how they will benefit us and our readers in their writing journey. #amwriting #editors #editing

Giving a Heartbeat to Your Characters

By Tammy J. Trail

Have you ever heard the expression, “he/she is such a character?” That means whomever they are talking about is a person worthy of remembrance for their larger than life personality. Most often that person has a great sense of humor. I tend to remember folks that make me laugh, don’t you?

In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story. You want your readers to become so enamored they can’t put your book down as they experience a life through that of your characters. This focus on creating a cast of players in your story is called “characterization.” It goes beyond eye, and hair color, age or gender. Although those features are important, it doesn’t really make your reader care about the hero or heroine.

Doing a profile is helpful in developing your character’s personality traits. Consider how your heroine reacts emotionally as you plot your story. How does she react to disappointment, anger, or sadness? Does she eat ice cream when she is stressed? Or perhaps she breaks out in hives when under pressure? These are the types of traits that make our characters more human and not just paper people.

One of the traits I gave my hero is rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet when he becomes impatient. He is a military man, and you could just see this as a normal behavior for someone who is an officer in the Army. Looking at your characters through the lens of a camera, as if they were in a movie helps to incorporate mannerisms; such as biting one lip when caught in a lie. Or the wringing of hands to show worry.

Consider likes and dislikes, incorporate them into your story. Do they have a loving family, or do they come from a dysfunctional background? Do they get along well with others? Do they have hobbies? Do they have a gift of music, sports or crafting? If you think about it our preferences make us who we are whether we want them to or not.

Another great tool of characterization is giving your hero/heroine a goal. What motivates them to reach this goal? How will they grow personally if they meet the goal, or how will they react if they don’t reach it? Our characters need to meet expectations, either imposed by someone else, or from within.

When writing Christian fiction your characters my go through a spiritual growth. My heroine lost someone she loved and became angry at God. If God is all knowing why didn’t He stop her fiance from being impressed into the British Navy and leaving her to become an old maid by societies standards? Though her fiance did not die, she lost him to a force larger than they could defeat.

Elaine’s journey is finding that God was always with her and knew better what she needed in life. Isn’t that true for all of us?

Two sources that helped me with my characterization:

Goal, Motivation and Conflict, by Debra Dixon.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expressions, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

 

Writing Prompt: Describe your perfect day with your favorite character from a book.

Click to Tweet: In fiction writing, the characters in your manuscript are helping you tell the story.