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Authentic Kid Voices | Writing for Children 073

CREATING QUALITY VOICES A while ago on the Institute's Facebook page, someone was asking about dialogue, which made me think again about this important writing tool. Readers love dialogue because it makes a scene and a character come to life. Dialogue puts us into a specific moment within a story and that's a powerful thing for readers. But many writers struggle with dialogue and with making it feel lively, purposeful, and real. So what should you do first in the pursuit of good...

Duration: 00:15:02

Look in Your Junk Drawer

CLEANING OUT THE JUNK DRAWER Personally, I love revising. I love the process of carving really good prose out of potentially questionable prose. For some, revision is more of a necessary evil, and one you must constantly, consciously focus on or else the old "let's make up a new story instead" nature can take over, and you may end up sending things out that really aren't ready. I've critiqued a lot of pieces of students and clients, often after it’s been rejected, and I'd say the number...

Duration: 00:12:40

Five Things to Worry About | Writing for Children 071

FIVE THINGS WORTH SWEATING OVER There are some mistakes editors see so often that they've become sore spots, things they simply think writers ought to take the time to overcome. Every single one of them is something I've done at one time or another, so I'm not saying these mistakes are deal breakers or will keep you from ever being published, but they are so common that they're worth making their correction part of every single revision. So here are five small things that can make a big...

Duration: 00:12:00

Let's Solve That | Writing for Children 070

THE PATH TO SOLUTION IS RARELY KIND Ultimately, the nature of plot is problem. The main character faces something that must be overcome or completed or defeated or endured, and the efforts that main character makes to do just that causes ripples that change the circumstances … and not always for the better. We take our beloved characters and we throw them into deep water, then when they try to get out of it, we drop a rock on them. In other words, that path to solution is rarely...

Duration: 00:09:39

Five Tips for Success | Writing for Children 069

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS? At this point in my writing career, I have never won any of the biggest prestigious awards, but I do make a living from my writing so I feel pretty successful. Success means something different to each of us, of course. If your idea of success involves the words "J.K. Rowling," I probably can't give you many tips. That level of success comes from a creative mind, a strong work ethic, and a good solid scoop of luck. But if you're defining success by being...

Duration: 00:17:58

How to Write Craft Articles | Writing for Children 068

HOW TO WRITE CRAFT ARTICLES MAGAZINES WILL BUY Crafts are one of those things I don't write about, but I have a friend who does, and when she does, she almost always makes a sale. The magazines that use them need a steady stream. The reason crafts are a staple of many children's magazines is because they help to make content interactive. They don't just offer a story or article, but let the child move beyond the magazine to create something new. Interactivity is a goal of many magazines,...

Duration: 00:09:03

Get Engaged | Writing for Children 067

NUMBER ONE, ENGAGE! When editors ask for characters that grow and change, they aren’t asking for a story about life’s lessons. They don’t mean they want a lecture on manners disguised as a story. What they want is for the situation in the story to have an impact on the main character that causes growth and change. And they want it to happen during a story that engages and entertains. When you are totally engaged, you can’t help but learn from the experience. So how do we engage the...

Duration: 00:11:22

Dangerous Writing Tools | Writing for Children 066

LEARNING HOW THINGS WORK One of the things that my father-in-law loved about me when we first met was that I had my own power tools. But since my husband is so good at fixing stuff, I've slacked off. As a result, I’ve gotten really rusty and hesitant about using some of the really dangerous things and our garage is a scary reminder every time I’m in there. I’ve actually gotten scared of using some of them! But lately, since we have to build a fence for our puppy, Ollie, I’ve been slowly...

Duration: 00:13:39

What to Do with the Hard Times | Writing for Children Podcast 065

HARD TIMES HAPPEN People often tell me how lucky I am to make a profession from something I enjoy deeply. And I am thrilled that this has been possible for me. I love being a writer. Except when I don't. No profession is made up of only happy days. Since I line up deadlines, I then I have to meet them. All of them. Some days, that's hard. Some days the words not only don't pour out of me, they don't even dribble. Some days, it just feels too hard. And that's when the professional side is...

Duration: 00:13:38

The Nature of Plot | Writing for Children 064

THE FLIGHT OF THE ARROW Many writing books have tried to explain the nature of plot. Some talk about story arc. Some talk about beginnings, middles, and ends. Some talk about conflicts and character growth. Right now, I’m going to talk about arrows. You shoot them, they travel swiftly to the destination you intend – if you are skilled enough, if you are strong enough, and if you actually have a destination in mind. Some writers say they just sit down and start writing and let the story...

Duration: 00:12:10

Picture Book Summit | Writing for Children 063

Picturing Picture Book Summit My guest today is fellow Picture Book Summit Co-Founder Julie Hedlund. This episode is a rebroadcast from my previous podcast Brain Burps About Books. In this interview, we talk about how Picture Book Summit came to be and what you, as a picture book writer, can learn from an online conference. If you're curious how an online writing conference works, you're in luck! We are hosting a FREE Mini Summit on August 22, 2017. In "Don't Write Your Grandma's Picture...

Duration: 00:38:05

Finding Your Way to The End Part 2 | Writing for Children 062

WRAPPING UP YOUR STORY Author John Green likes to collect famous last words. The last things we speak can say a lot about us, or they can be vague and anti-climactic. That’s because real life isn’t as tidy as a story. In a story, the last lines usually do say a lot (even if only symbolically) about the story. For the last word on this topic and an ending checklist, listen to the full episode. Do you have questions about how the children's publishing industry works? Tell us and we'll...

Duration: 00:09:04

Finding Your Way to The End Part 1 | Writing for Children Podcast 061

HOW TO TIME YOUR ENDING In a way, every story is a story of transformation. Circumstances change. Characters experience revelations. Challenges are met and overcome. The longer the work you’re writing, the more transformations are likely to occur. In board books and many picture books, for instance, the transformation is often simply circumstance. In the very famous Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, the little rabbit experiences the changes that come with bedtime. The little rabbit...

Duration: 00:10:56

Show Some Respect | Writing for Children 060

WHY SUBMISSION GUIDELINES MATTER Many times, editors finally find time to dig into the slush pile or they open their email and check out submissions and get a disappointing surprise. People send poetry for children to publishers who list “no poetry” right in their guidelines. People send fiction for children to publishers who only publish nonfiction. People send parenting essays to magazines that only publish material for children. Why would anyone send things like this when it cannot...

Duration: 00:12:38

Last Minute Dialogue Checklist | Writing for Children 059

MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE As you work through your revision and polish up your work, don’t forget dialogue. Few things can do more for your story than good dialogue, so it’s worthwhile to get it right. ___Check that all spoken dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks and that punctuation occurs inside the quotation marks. [Enclosing all punctuation within the quotes is standard style of most American publishers.] ___Only spoken words go in quotes, thoughts do not need to be set...

Duration: 00:09:13

Catch 'Em with the Query | Writing for Children 058

DON'T KILL THE QUERY Among cover and query letters for children’s fiction, there exists one absolutely killer mistake that is frequently made by new writers. They forget why children read fiction. Most fiction that you write and will sell will not be assigned as homework, so none of the children who read it will be forced to read it. They must want to read it. Editors know this, so the number one thing they want to know about your manuscript is: will children want to read this? That’s...

Duration: 00:14:51

7 Tips for Creating Compelling Conflict | Writing for Children 057

CREATING CONFLICT Every story needs conflict. The tension of resolving that conflict is what compels the audience to read all the way to the end of your book. Today we look at 7 tips for creating conflict. 1. Be certain your main character has a worthy, noble goal. No one likes a shallow greedy protagonist. Be sure it’s a realistic goal as well or your young reader won’t relate to it. So the young child who wants to make his mom a specific gift is relatable. The young child who wants to...

Duration: 00:12:46

8 Must-Know Facts About Magazine Nonfiction | Writing for Children 056

WHAT MAGAZINE EDITORS WANT 1. Magazines are often picky about their nonfiction magazine sources. Although few prohibit using Internet sources, they should never be your only–or even your main sources. And never, ever use Wikipedia as a source. 2. One good thing websites are good for is pointing you toward primary sources that you can contact by email for specific information pertaining to your subject. Often you can find the email addresses of professors at major universities, curators...

Duration: 00:14:49

7 Steps for Taking Your Work to the Next Level | Writing for Children 055

LITTLE THINGS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE Have you hit a roadblock with your writing? You got the story down, but something seems to be missing? Or you just know it can be better, but you don't know where to start? Today we touch on 7 things you can do to bump up your story. 1. Make your story stink! Consider the sensory detail in your work. Studies have shown that the sense of smell is one our most emotionally evocative senses. As a writer, are you just a sightseer or do your stories...

Duration: 00:15:20

8 Steps to Perfect Dialogue Format | Writing for Children 054

ARE YOU PROPERLY FORMATTING YOUR DIALOGUE? Formatting dialogue in any manuscript can be perplexing. Follow these 8 guidelines so you don't get tripped up by tricky dialogue. 1. Check that all spoken dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks and that punctuation occurs inside the quotation marks. [Enclosing all punctuation within the quotes is standard style of most American publishers.] 2. Only spoken words go in quotes, thoughts do not need to be set off with quotation marks. Some...

Duration: 00:16:20

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