Showing posts with label writing mistakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing mistakes. Show all posts

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Kid's Stories - Should They All Become Books?

 


 Writing over 300 stories, between ghostwriting and rewriting, I’ve only seen one story that couldn’t be tweaked, nudged, shaken, or even deconstructed and reconstructed into a publishable story.

The concept and author of that one book were, well, not quite all there. Dealing with so many clients, I’m surprised I only had one so far.

Aside from that though, most stories or drafts can be magically turned into something an author will be proud to be author of.

A big problem I see is that new authors sometimes don’t know what a publishable story is.

But, wait a minute …

Let me clarify what I mean about a publishable book because today any story can become published, whether it’s poorly written or a well written story.

When I use the term “publishable,” I’m talking about a book that meets the U.S. standard children’s  publishing guidelines.

Three of the top mistakes I see that would warrant taking another stab at your story or demolishing it and starting over are:

1. The point-of-view

You’re writing a picture book or chapter book and have more than one point-of-view (POV).

This can happen when you have two or more main characters in your story or it can happen if you have head-hopping in your story.

Let’s go back a step and define POV. Every story has to be told from someone’s perspective. In other words, who is the story about.

It’s essential in young children’s writing that you clearly define who the protagonist (main character) is. And, there should only be one.

Jerry Jenkins, author of over 190 books, says he avoids slipping into an omniscient viewpoint “by imagining my Point of View or Perspective Character as my camera—I’m limited to writing only what my character ‘camera’ sees, hears, and knows.”

So, POV is a critical element of your story. Check to make sure you have only one POV and its that of the protagonist.

Head-hopping is slipping from one character’s POV to another, within the same paragraph or even same sentence.

In the example below, Tommy is the protagonist:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

“Pete,” said Jim with a nudge, “you see that. I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.” Jim threw a pretend pitch. “Look at him running round the bases.”

The second paragraph in the example is a no-no. It’s bringing Jim’s perspective into the story since Tommy couldn’t see or hear him.

Tommy is the protagonist and must know what’s going on in the story or it can’t be in the story.

This could be rewritten, though:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

When Tommy raced to home plate, he heard Jim yelling, “I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.”

Now it’s all with Tommy’s point-of-view.

2. Adults save the day.

Children want to read about children. They want the protagonist to solve his own problem.

While parents or other adults in a story can be a support system, their involvement needs to be minimal. The young protagonist needs to come up with the solution to her problem.

In “Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch, Stephanie wants to be unique. Here’s how the story starts:

“One day Stephanie went to her mom and said, ‘None of the kids in my class have a ponytail. I want a nice ponytail coming right out the back.’”

The problem though is the day after Stephanie comes in with that particular ponytail, all the girls in her class have it. So, each day she tells her mother create another specific kind of ponytail. The day after each new ponytail, the class copies her.

At the end, Stephanie comes up with a clever, and funny, idea that cures the class of copying her.

While the mother in involved in the story, it’s Stephanie who comes up with all the ideas. And, it’s Stephanie who solves the problem.

3. Jumping in without learning how to swim first.

You’ve wanted to write a children’s book for years. You have tons of ideas and you’ve even written a couple down. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t wait any longer and you put one of your ideas into a story.

You type or write away and finally have your story, and it seems great.

Picture books can be 10 pages, right? You ‘kind of’ draw, so you can create your own illustrations, right? You have a couple of rhymes here and there, so that’s good, right?

While you may have a great story idea, standard picture books are usually 32 pages - of those pages there are 24-26 for content and illustrations. Unless you’re a professional illustrator you shouldn’t create your own illustrations. And, either you’ve written a rhyming story or not.

There are lots of other elements that you need to be aware or before jumping in to write a publishable book.

So, there you have it, three top children’s writing mistakes.

If I were to give a number 4, it would be that you have TOO much showing in the story. If I were to give a number 5, it would be that you’re trying to knock the young reader over his head with the moral of the story.

Hope these tips help you when you sit down to write your story.

References:

Fiction Writing for Children
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/diy/

POV with Jerry Jenkins
https://jerryjenkins.com/point-of-view/

This article was first published at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/10/28/are-all-childrens-stories-meant-to-become-books/  


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

 

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

5 Top Fiction Writing No-Nos

Fiction writers who are good at what they do, enjoy what they do. They like creating something from nothing . . . well from an idea. They enjoy the craft and the process – heck, they love it!

But, with that said, there are 5 top mistakes all fiction writers need to be aware of and avoid.

1. You make the beginning of your story all roses.

While we’d all love to live in a peaceful, happy land, readers need something to sink their teeth into, especially at the beginning of the story.

The beginning of your story is the hook. It’s where you GRAB the reader and make her have to turn the page and want to know what’s going to happen to the protagonist.

Here are a couple of examples of ‘hooking’ beginnings:

“I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot. But when my teacher said, ‘Class, we have an exciting project to talk about,’ I listened away.”
“The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker.

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
“Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

These two examples of children’s writing give you a good idea of what it takes to ‘hook’ the reader.

2. The dialog is weak, fluffy.

Having weak dialog can kill your story. You need your characters to have passion . . . to have life.

You want dialog that is strong and tight. You want the emotion (the conflict, the tension, the passion) to come through the words. And, you want to say it in as few words and as realistically as possible.

You want the reader to feel what the character is feeling at that moment.

If Bob is angry in the story, show it through his dialog:

“WHAT! Who said you could take that?!”
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“No! You can’t. Now get lost.”
“Get your hands off of me!”


The tight, strong dialog goes for exchanges also:

“Hey! What are you doing?!” Bob yelled.

Gia spun around. “Oh, uh, nothing.” Her eyes darted to the door then back to Bob.


3. The story is predictable.

You’ve got to have some surprises in the story. If you don’t, it will make for a rather dull, predictable story.

For this aspect of your story, think questions.

- Why is the character in that situation?
- How did he get there?
- What must she be feeling, seeing?
- How can she get out of it?
- What might happen next?

Try to come up with four or five options as to what might happen next.

In an article at Writer’s Digest, the author advises to “Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.” (1)

Let your imagination run wild.

4. Your characters are one-dimensional.

For readers to become engaged in a story, they have to develop a connection with the protagonist and other characters. In order for this to happen, the characters must be multi-dimensional.

Characters need to be believable and unique. You don’t want them to be predictable or a stereotype.

According to “Breathing Life into Your Characters” by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D., “The essential components for creating successful characters with emotional and psychological depth—feelings, passion, desires, psychology, and vision—reside within [the writer].”

So, think about it. What conditions or characteristics does your character have?

- Is he stingy?
- Does she frighten easily?
- Is he a troublemaker of bully?

- Does he listen to good advice?
- Does she get along with others?
- Does he have a disorder such as ADHD?
- Does he have phobias?
- Is she dysfunctional?

- Is he musically inclined?
- Does she have an eating disorder?
- Is she materialistic?
- Is she a risk taker, fearless?

And, keep in mind that the more stressful an ‘inciting incident’ or event, the more reaction and/or adjustment there will be.

For example: If a child lost a pet, it wouldn’t be as severe as losing a parent.
If a woman separated from her husband, it wouldn’t be as severe as having her husband suddenly die.

So, using your experiences and innate characteristics, along with research, you can create multi-faceted characters.

5. You dump information into the story.

This is more of a mistake that new writers may make. I had a client who created the entire first paragraph of her story with ‘information dump.’

Having the protagonist tell another character his entire backstory, along with other details the author wants to convey to the reader is a no-no. Backstory needs to be layered or weaved into the story, not dumped in one big truck load.

You might also use a prologue to give backstory.

While there are other things to watch for in fiction writing, these are five of the top no-nos.

Reference:
(1) 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes and Fixes

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
 Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

You can connect with Karen at:
Facebook
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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

4 Realities Writers Need to Face

By Karen Cioffi

Writing can be a tough field to be in. Some authors seem to make it overnight, while others struggle on for years with not much success.

There are at least four must-know tips that every writer should be aware of to help get over the bumps in the road.

1. It’s going to take time to write your story.

It’s important for new writers to know writing a story can take a while – if you want to get it as ‘right’ as possible.

One reason for this is you should occasionally take a break from your story to look at it again with fresh eyes. Maybe in a week or so.

Another reason is as you’re going along then reread your story, you’ll no doubt find things here and there that you want to change or that doesn’t read right. 

And, often, writers don’t know when enough is enough. You keep trying to tweak the story until it’s ready to go,’ at least in your eyes.

While there are events like ‘Novel in a Month,” most of those who participate create a draft in 30 days, not a ready to submit manuscript.

So, expect it to take a while to write a story you will be proud of. And, don’t try to rush the process. If you get done sooner than expected, it’s icing on the cake.

2. Don’t expect your first story to make it.

Your very first attempt at writing a book may not be the one that actually gets published. In fact, chances are it won’t be.

It may be that the story just sits in your computer, in a file somewhere. Or, you may occasionally work on it, never being quite satisfied with it. Or, you may keep submitting it, but it never finds a home.

What do you do in the meantime? Keep writing. Get another story started and keep honing your craft. Don’t be discouraged.

3. You need a critique group or a critique partner.

New and seasoned writers can benefit from critique groups or having a critique partner. It’s almost impossible for a writer to see her own work with fresh eyes. You know what you intended to say, so even if it’s not really there, you will see it. You won’t know if you’re missing clarity or possibly a blatant grammatical error.

And, there are all the other writing pitfalls, like character development, plot, story arc, and so on, that you may glaze over.

Another writer, particularly one who writes in your genre, will be able to spot what you may be missing. Or, at the very least, give you some insights.

4. Don’t compare yourself to other writers (at least try not to).

Writers can feel insecure in their abilities, their progress, and their successes. This one goes for authors and freelance writers.

You may feel other writers you know are getting publishing contracts while you’re not. Maybe you’re a freelance writer and don’t feel you have enough credits. You may feel you’re not as good a writer as others.

It may be hard to do, but DON’T go there.

If you think you need to hone your writing skills, take classes and hire a writing coach. Instead of feeling unworthy or discouraged, take steps to move forward.

Keep honing your craft and persevere your way to success.

5. If you don’t go for it, it’ll never happen.

Okay, this is a bonus reality, but super-important. If you don’t submit your manuscript, it’ll never find a home.

If you don’t query magazines to get a foot in the article writing arena, you’ll never get an article in a magazine.

Don’t procrastinate and don’t think you’re not good enough. Just go for it. Do the work and SUBMIT. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Source:
6 Hard Truths Every Writer Should Accept

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children's ghostwriter.

You can connect with Karen at:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/KarenCV
Facebook: http://facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarecioffi
GoolgePlus: https://plus.google.com/+KarenCioffiVentrice/about

This article was originally published at:
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2016/05/15/4-realities-new-writers-need-to-face/

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

5 Writing Mistakes to Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Participation

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is here again. Every year in November thousands of writers participate. They each buckle down and write a novel within the month of November. That's a pretty impressive task.

Well, last year during NaNoWriMo, Grammarly.com did something unique. They worked with nearly 500 writers from 54 countries to crowdsource a novel. They analyzed the resulting 40,000 or so words and uncovered some writing mistakes that happened time and again, then summarized the top five in a handy infographic:

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic

Attribution for this infographic goes to: https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check

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