Sunday, February 5, 2023

Valentine's Gifts: Sometimes Words Fail Even a Writer

 


He Won’t Write You a Love Letter

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

 

Way back in the dark ages when I edited Ann Landers’ columns for a newspaper I worked for, I learned some advice columns can be nearly as valuable as an expensive therapist. My habit of turning to Ann’s column before I read the headlines came in handy recently when Ask Amy, her successor, published a letter dealing with a problem I’ve often heard applied to comedians who don’t like it when someone demands they “be funny,” when they haven’t quite finished swallowing whatever they are chewing. It never occurred to me that it applies to we writers as well.

 

Amy’s column featured a wife who had been married for thirty years to an “eloquent, thoughtful writer” who chooses words carefully. She says, “He turns mundane subjects into interesting reads.” She also says that he is smart, funny, great person, husband, father. (Yep, she’s still complaining to Amy!)

 

This rotter—her husband—won’t write down his feelings for her. He won’t do it for Christmas. He apparently has refused to do it to save money on a more expensive gift. She was hurt and when she pushed, he pushed back. She pushed again. Ugly argument.

 

All this scoundrel could come up with on demand for Valentine’s day is a card with a website address for planning a beautiful trip. No personal poem or sentiment suitable for a card but for her eyes only. One wonders if even a heartfelt “I love you” would do the job. I feel nothing but pity for her. Ahem?

 

At the end of this story, Neglected Wife admits that she knows he loves her. But she assumes she must not be the love of his life and wants an explanation. Now. For Valentine’s day! 

 

Wow. If she is dejected now, just think how disconsolate she’ll be when she finds out about the fifth-grade crush he can’t quite forget!

 

Amy tries to “describe the dynamic of being a writer and getting an emotionally loaded assignment” to this obviously ungrateful reader. The mere idea of fulfilling an assignment like the one this woman has given her husband gives Amy “writer-hives.”

 

So, what do we have here? Is he passive aggressive? Is it creative paralysis. Or do we have here a case of a controlling nature, a persistent controlling nature. On the part of the wife. Or a spouse (either one) who is insecure with love, with writing, or both?

 

I admit, I’ll often take the wife’s part when I read columns like this. So does Amy. I suspect we both figure a lot of men just don’t know how to fill the expectations of the woman they marry—or any other for that matter.

 

Here’s my suggestion to the wife. Back off and stay there. Your man already has an editor. Maybe a lot of them. People who are demanding (or give assignments) are often critical of the final product, even when the author (like certain presidents) think it’s “perfect.” He knows damn well that if he’s in trouble now, it will be worse once his sentiments are indelible. [Disclaimer: I am an editor and I try to be gentle; perhaps you can tell it’s my job to give advice.)

 

My mother used to say, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I used to hate it. I thought it applied only to women. Women have to be made of sugar plumbs. Men get to be sauerkraut if they damn well want. Of course I was wrong. Even flies come in two distinct genders. What works for flies works for writers. Reluctant writers. Married writers. Writers of any gender. But it’s a little na├»ve to think it will always work.

 

Still it’s fun to think of the stories we might come up with if we writers apply this advice to other creatives. Do a little dance for your comedian friends. While I’m at being controlling, don’t tell them jokes. They pay writers for that.

 

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter and my publisher and I are hoping for a February release of the third edition of my The Frugal Editor. They will then both be published by Modern History Press and between them they have won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is still in its first edition and waiting for you in its indie-published edition. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Middle Grade and Young Adult Differences

 


By Karen Cioffi

Lately, I've notice that a number of clients don't understand the difference between a middle grade (MG) book and a young adult (YA) book.

So, let's go over a few of the basic differences.

Also, keep in mind that there is simple MG and upper MG as well as simple YA and upper YA.

THE READER AGE GROUP FOR EACH GENRE

MG books focus on readers in the 9-12 age range. According to editor Mary Kole, "That's really the sweet spot." (1)

Along with this, there is an upper middle grade group that caters to the 12-13-year-old reader. They're not quite ready for YAs, but they're more advanced than a 9 or 10-year-old.

There is also a lower middle grade group that caters to the 8-10 range.

Another factor to consider is the age of the protagonist.

Generally, the protagonist is between 11 and 12 years old as kids want to read up. They want the protagonist to be as old or older than they are.

If it's an upper MG, the protagonist is usually 12-13.

It is important that the protagonist isn't in high school, thus the 13-year-old limit for upper middle grade.

Young adult books focus on readers in the 13-18 age range.

This genre is also divided into lower (younger) YA and upper (older) YA.

For the younger YA readers, the protagonist is usually aged 14-15.

For older readers, the protagonist is usually 16-18 years old, but he shouldn't be in college.

I'm currently ghostwriting a YA where it starts with the protagonist at 14 and will go with him through high school to 18-years-old.

WHAT CAN AND CAN’T BE IN THE STORY

With middle grade, especially younger middle grade, the story should still be simple and it'd be a good idea to keep it to a single point-of-view.

For upper MG, you can use two points-of -view, but my preference is still only one.

While the subject matter can be more mature than chapter books, it should be age appropriate. Keep in mind that the MG age group is still young. They're not experienced or mature enough to handle complex or mature topics.

Things like fitting in, simple crushes, and all the other things that go into the middle school years are fine.

If you're writing for upper middle grade, things can get a bit more advanced. Kids are experiencing the world. They know what they're seeing on TV and other media. You still though want to avoid dark or explicit subject matter. And, profanity should be avoided.

With young adult, kids are becoming savvy. They're experiencing everything from terrorism, violence, pandemics, and so on.

YA stories can go into the darker and grimier side of life.

While you still want to tone it down a bit for the younger YA group, for the older group you can pretty much go into everything. Although, explicit sexual content should still be limited. This is not the place for adult content.

You can though, add two or more points-of-view.

THE WORD COUNT

MG

The word count for middle grade is 15,000 to 65,000. Although, my fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, is about 12,000 and is great for the reluctant MG reader.

The general parameters are:

- Young MG is usually 15,000 to 25,000
- MG is usually 25,000 to 45,000
- Upper MG is usually 45,000 to 65,000

There is also the fantasy or sci-fi MG which can have a higher word count. But, it's not advisable not to go beyond 85,000 words.

YA

The word count for young adult is 50,000 to 75,000.

For the younger YA, keep it on the lower end of the word count.

While these are just the basics of the differences between MG and YA, it gives you a general idea of where your story should fit.

According to an article at Writers Digest, "a book that doesn’t fit within the parameters of either age category is a book you won’t be able to sell." (2)

An example of this:

With the story I mentioned earlier that I'm ghosting, it started as a MG. But, as the client wanted older subject matter and wanted the protagonist to go through high school, I had to change it to a YA.

The client actually wanted the protagonist to go through college also, but I had to pull in the reins.

You need to stay within the genre limits.

I hope this clears up the major differences between middle-grade and young adult stories.

This was first published at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2020/06/28/middle-grade-versus-young-adult/

References:
(1) https://marykole.com/how-to-write-middle-grade-fiction

(2) https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. You can check out Karen's books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

You can connect with Karen at:
LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter https://twitter.com/KarenCV  
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karencioffikidlitghostwriter/


MORE ON WRITING

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Every Writer Needs Connections

 


By W. Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Wherever you are in the writing world: brand new or experienced every writer needs publishing connections to editors, agents, promoters and their fellow writers. Attending a conference is a great way to be connected but that only happens once a year. How do you get connected at other times?

Within the publishing community, who you know is almost as important as what you know. Yes, it is important to pitch an excellent book proposal or manuscript to the right publisher. As an editor and an author, I also understand people buy (books or manuscripts) from people they know, like and trust. How can you know more publishing people? From my years in publishing, one of the challenges is keeping track of the moving people.

Years ago, one of my six-figure book deals was cancelled because my New York editor had changed companies. My book was orphaned or without an editor directly responsible for my project. It taught me the importance of having a champion within the publishing house for each book.

How does a new author with no connections, begin to get connected to publishing people? Everyone can use a social network which has over 849 million users: LinkedIn. This network is primarily business related and publishing is a business.

To get connected, you need to take several actions:

1. Rework your LinkedIn profile to show your activity in publishing. Do you write for magazines? Have you published books? Or possibly you have some other explicit publishing role such as leading a local writer’s group. If you have these types of qualifications, then add them to your LinkedIn profile.

2. Begin to send connection requests to different people in publishing. These people could be book editors, literary agents, magazine editors, authors and many other roles. In some cases you will want to send them a little personalized message with your invitation. In other cases, you simply send out the generic invitation that you want to connect with the person.

For many years, I received LinkedIn invitations and ignored them. I had very few connections on LinkedIn. Then I began to look at the background of the person and for most people, I accepted their invitation to connect. My number of connections increased and my public profile says the common “over 500 connections.” The real number of my LinkedIn connections, as of this writing, is over 19,400. These connections are varied with many different roles (mostly within publishing) Here’s the critical reason you want to be connected: when I need to reach someone that I’ve not emailed or called in a long-time, I check their LinkedIn contact information.

While there is a lot of movement within the publishing community, when they change positions or companies or physical location, everyone takes their LinkedIn account with them. This account belongs to the individual and is a way to consistently keep up and reach them.

LinkedIn has a lot of other functions as well but being connected and maintaining those connections is one of the basics and best reasons to consistently use this network. Are we connected on LinkedIn? If not, send me an invitation and let’s get connected. 

How are you using LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments below.

Tweetable:

Every writer needs connections but if you are starting out how do you get these connections? Get the detaIls and insights here from this prolific author. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Fundamentals Make A Good Impression

Fundamentals Make a Good Impression: by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Each article we write, be it blog post or book chapter, is a chance for us to make a good impression. It shares who we are and our love of the subject. Make it clear so the words stand out: fluent, confident, and persuasive.

You’re a writer, so think of yourself as one. And the writer’s job is to communicate, encourage, and inspire. Stay with your voice so as not to lose your personality. Write like you speak.

Keeping your reader in mind will help guide your word choice. The goal is to create a meaningful piece that doesn’t lose the feel of natural speech.

Be personable in your delivery. Avoid the formality that is often used for business messages. Show your readers you are enthused about your subject. Choose words that convey your enthusiasm and let your subject speak for itself, making it meaningful for the reader.

These points are fundamental for our next step, which is to edit the draft. Sometimes an edit needs a rewrite, which to me sounds like starting all over. Not necessarily. We often need to rewrite or reorganize a sentence, or several sentences, but that’s good. You are moving your article closer to polishing for the finish line with each revision you make.

Let’s consider the following questions as we re-read our article, post, or chapter:
1.    Was the main point introduced early?
2.    Is it straightforward and understandable?
3.    Does it grab the readers’ attention?
4.    You’ve set out to communicate a meaningful message, did it?
5.    Does the information flow, sentence by sentence, logically?

Keep your reader’s hat on as you ponder these questions.

6.    Check the word choice:
    a.    Any unnecessary words?
    b.    Is the information the reader needs included? Is it accurate?
    c.    Was the message delivered in a positive tone?

Online Grammar Aids: ProWritingAid and Grammarly,
Identify Trouble Areas. But We Often Need More

 Self-Editing Book List:
William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White: “The Elements of Style”
Renni Browne & Dave King: “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”
Carolyn Howard-Johnson: “The Frugal Editor”
Bruce Ross-Larson: “Edit Yourself”


 



 Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and    stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available on Amazon



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Friday, January 13, 2023

Is There a Number One Writing Element?

 


Contributed by Karen Cioffi

 There’s a lot of information on the elements of writing.

You have characters, setting, point-of-view, style, theme, plot, and even literary devices.

But you also have things like readability, consequences, and uniqueness.

Could you choose which of these elements is the most important?

It’s tough, isn’t it?

Well, after doing some research and reading a number of articles, the answer became simple.

The most important element to writing fiction is the WHY.

You can have all the above mentioned elements in your story, but if the why is missing, the story will fall flat. The reader won’t bother turning the pages.

So, what’s the WHY?

The why is usually the inciting incident.

It’s the reason you wrote the story and the reason the reader will bother reading it.

Studiobinder explains that, "the inciting incident should have a snowball effect. Let the story grow from the one thing that goes wrong (or right) like a snowball would if it rolled down a hill.”

The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp is a middle grade story that has a significant and jolting inciting incident.

The protagonist is a nice boy of Japanese descent. At the outbreak of WWII, he and his family are taken to an internment camp. The protagonist’s life is turned upside down. They lose everything and are imprisoned.

Readers are immediately grabbed and want to know what happens to the boy.

Keep in mind that the inciting incident doesn’t have to be a bomb going off and destroying the protagonist’s home and family. It could be something simple that snowballs into something huge.

Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite movies, but the inciting incident doesn’t really seem to be of much consequence at the moment. Tom Hank’s character talks on the phone to a radio show psychologist about how difficult it is to cope with the loss of his wife.

While it’s a touching scene, it’s the aftermath of that call that creates the snowball effect.

Women, including Meg Ryan’s character, hear the conversation on the radio and immediately all want to be the woman who heals Tom Hank’s character’s broken heart.

This turns the protagonist’s life upside down.

In the two examples above, it was an external factor that created the inciting incident. But what if it’s an internal struggle?

In Walking Through Walls, the protagonist, Wang, doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps of tending to a wheat field that he doesn’t own. So, he journeys to become a mystical Eternal.

It’s Wang’s laziness, greed, and want of power that is the why of the story.

The inciting incident isn’t bomb-like, but it sends him off on a journey that changes him forever.

According to the article, "What is the Most Important Element When Writing a Story?", “As a novelist, you have to hone in on the event that brings the story into being and why your reader should care. That why is the question at the heart of every novel. The why is one of the first things readers look for when we pick up a book.”

While every element in writing is important in that when combined, they create a synergy that can create a powerful and memorable story, it’s the why that’s at the heart of every story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.
https://thewritingworld.com/your-author-platform/

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear,” and her DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com.  




Monday, January 9, 2023

New Year, New Goals


I celebrate the New Year twice. Once in DEBcember to get a running start and again in January, which is the "traditional" start of the year. 

Anytime is the perfect time to rethink your goals and set yourself up for success. To help you start the New Year right, I'm sharing goals and insights gifted during my GoalChatLive show celebrations.

Watch my #DEBcember Conversation

with guests Chris Cherian, Annie P. Ruggles, and Keith Spiro


Watch My Happy New Year 2023 Show 

with guests Doug Bennett, Fallon Cryer, and Troy Sandidge

 

Want some inspiration? 

Here are my Guests' Goal Recommendations for 2023

  • Keith: Identify something you are passionate about and start working on it. Step one is making a plan! 
  • Chris: Call an old friend 
  • Annie: Say what you mean to say Troy: Define the scope of your goals, be honest, and be real – what can you do? what will you do? Then, execute! 
  • Doug: Turn up on time; that means 10 minutes early. Say please, thank you, and show respect! That creates trust! 
  • Fallon: Ask the first person you see every day how they are; look them in the eye and care about what they say. That’s how you develop relationships. 
  • Deb: Keep a daily win list in a dedicated notebook or Google doc. Then, when you need encouragement, you can read through your wins and give yourself a pep talk

Final Thoughts 

  • Keith: Pick a word - or three - for the new year
  • Annie: Self-advocacy
  • Chris: Set goals and don't forget yourself
  • Doug: Anybody can do anything, you just have to decide that you want to do it! 
  • Fallon: You matter ... as you are
  • Troy: A resolution is a statement of what you want to change. A goal is a statement of what you want to achieve. 
Pick one goal, pick three. Mix up personal and professional goals, easy tasks and aspirations that are a bit of a reach.

This year, every year, the power is in your hands. Set goals and set yourself up for success!

Happy New Year!

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin! 

* * *

What are your goals for 2023? Please share in the comments. 

* * *
Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

How Should You Start Your Story?

 


Contributed by Karen Cioffi

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.

2.  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.

3. 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 and his best friend arguing.

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 felt his face heat up.


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 who the protagonist is. It should give the reader something to latch onto.

Editor Mary Kole 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, the protagonist in Walking Through Walls, 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 first paragraph examples should give you an idea of how to create effective beginnings for your stories.

Remember, though, that your story beginning should make the reader want to know what’s going on. It should motivate him turn the page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. You can check out Karen's books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

You can connect with Karen at:
LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter https://twitter.com/KarenCV  
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karencioffikidlitghostwriter/

Need help with your online platform? Check out:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/ 

 

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Valentine's Gifts: Sometimes Words Fail Even a Writer

  He Won’t Write You a Love Letter By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writer...