5 Tips For Writing A Children’s Picture Book

5 Tips For Writing A Children’s Picture Book

writing a children's picture book

Have you ever considered writing a children’s picture book? Because children’s picture books are so short, it can be challenging to tell your story effectively. You have limited space, need to use an age-appropriate vocabulary, and your words have to inspire an illustrator to create vivid pictures. Some writers make it look easy, like A.L. Wegwerth, author of I’m Going to Be a Hockey Star. But writing a picture book is a complex undertaking that takes special skill. Fortunately, A.L. Wegwerth has stopped by to share five of her top tips for aspiring picture book writers. Read her tips below.

I write this as an avid picture book reader as well as a picture book author. I’ve also worked in children’s publishing for over fifteen years so I have an inside perspective that tends toward practical, and for that reason this advice may resonate with some people and not with others.

Without further ado, here are five quick tips for aspiring picture book writers.

Tip #1: Read, Then Write.

If you want to write a picture book, make sure you read picture books. Lots of them. The quality of picture books produced gets better every year. Soak in each book’s wisdom, its innovation or its simplicity. Figure out which authors resonate with you and why. Reading widely also has the added benefit of helping you better understand the picture book market in terms of what gets published and potential comps for your book. I can’t emphasize enough that if you have a goal of getting your book traditionally published, there needs to be a perceived audience for your book. Which brings me to my next point . . .

Tip #2: Consider Your Audience.

A picture book has two audiences: the child and the parent whose lap the child sits on. Make sure your story has elements that appeal to both. It not only makes bedtime or story time more enjoyable for the parents, but I truly believe it affects your book sales. People are more likely to purchase a book as a gift or recommend it to others if they found it enjoyable (and not just their kid).

Tip #3: Choose Your Words Carefully.

A picture book is a collaboration between an author and illustrator. Make sure your words leave space for the illustrator to tell the story. As a picture book writer, focus on action and dialogue and avoid descriptions unless they are vital to the story (the illustrator can take care of that.) Picture books are great ways to build kids’ visual literacy (i.e., the ability to read and make sense of visual images). The words and art work together to tell a story; when the words repeat what is in the illustrations, the story becomes redundant.

Tip #4: Keep The Story Moving With Page Turns.

There are so many things I love about the picture book format, but I think my favorite is how effective page turns can be. Page turns aid in pacing and, when done effectively, help keep readers reading. Page turns can act as a cliffhanger, reveal something surprising, add humor, or create excitement or suspense. Use them to your advantage. When writing your picture book, consider the book map—what text will go on each page. Don’t forget to leave space for the title page, copyright info, etc.

Tip #5: You Are Not Beholden To Rhyme.

If you’re thinking that you should write your picture book in rhyme, don’t. If writing in rhyme doesn’t come naturally, please don’t try. What are some clues that your rhyme is not working? When sticking to the rhyme scheme dictates the plot of the book. When it feels forced, like when you awkwardly structure sentences simply to maintain the rhyme. Rhyme can also feel overused if you’re using a common rhyme scheme. All this said, if rhyming comes easily to you, by all means run with it. But there’s nothing that will make me close a book quicker (or, at the very least, groan audibly) than a book with an unnatural or forced rhyme.

These are five tips for picture book writing, but I could have written five hundred. I think the biggest thing that has helped me in my picture writing is to give up the idea of perfection—especially on the first draft. I’ve found that the more I write, the better my work becomes. So keep writing!

More About The Book

hockey picture book

The very first hockey practice can be a little scary, but not if you are planning to be the world’s greatest hockey superstar! Follow the action and relish the dreams of a confident young boy as he begins his journey to hockey stardom. See what happens at a hockey practice, learn about the excitement and fun of the game, and experience the lovable chaos of the ice arena. With humor and a little bit of attitude, A.L. Wegwerth has written a great introduction to the sport, while Alana McCarthy’s vivid style brings the game to life for future hockey stars.

Aimed at kids ages 3-7, the story was published by River Horse Books.

Buy it on Amazon.

More About A.L. Wegwerth

A.L. Wegwerth, AKA Amber Ross, writes books for kids that are filled with imagination, playfulness, and humor. She’s a product director by day, a hockey coach by night, a mom 24/7, and an author in the early morning (and whenever else she might fit it in).

Read my interview with A.L. Wegwerth on my Hockey Rivals Books blog.

Follow her on Twitter.

 

Do You Need Help Planning Your Writing Schedule? Listen To This Podcast by @Daria_White15

Do You Need Help Planning Your Writing Schedule? Listen To This Podcast by @Daria_White15

If you could use some help planning your writing schedule, then have I got a treat for you.

Recently, my friend Daria White interviewed me on her podcast Writer in the Making. Many of you know that I teach an in-depth course called Time Management Blueprint for Writers: Transform Your Life and Finish Your Book. In this course, I teach my simple, proven four-step framework for how to become more organized, productive, and creative in all areas of your life, including writing.

I also teach a course called Book Editing Blueprint, A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, a complete step-by-step system that teaches you how to spot the flaws in your novel and fix them so that you can ditch the overwhelm, save time and money, and better your chances of impressing readers, agents, and publishers. In addition, I work with authors one-on-one as a freelance developmental editor and line editor.

Daria teaches a course called the No Time Writer, showing you how to use time-saving techniques to unleash the writer within and discover your unique writing process. Also through her one-on-one premium mentorship, she helps new and ambitious authors discover their unique writing system that works perfectly for them.

As an author of over 10 books and over 300 podcast episodes, Daria has helped more than 100 students from all over the world find the inspiration to finish their first drafts and become one step closer to publishing their books.

As you can imagine, Daria and I have a lot to say on the subject of time management and writing routines. During the podcast episode, we shared our favorite tips on how to plan out your writing year. It was a fantastic conversation packed full of actionable advice about weekly planning, quarterly planning, and how to break down big tasks like editing a book into smaller steps.

Listen to the podcast episode about planning your writing year here:

YouTube

Spotify

Apple Podcasts

 

 

Get Your Free Ticket To Sell Books With Collabs Summit And Boost Your Book Marketing

Get Your Free Ticket To Sell Books With Collabs Summit And Boost Your Book Marketing

Sell Books With Collabs Book marketing Event

I want this to be the year you fall in love with marketing your book. Effective marketing is hard . . . and bad marketing kills careers and passion, so this isn’t an easy endeavor.

We often think if we ‘show up for the right person with the right message at the right time,’ it’s okay to push our books over and over.

First, you risk annoying whatever audience you have. Every piece of content you put out there is a take; it’s asking people to give you attention in an attention-starved world. Think about it. When you hang out with your friends, you don’t insist that they watch Supernatural every time you see them, even though it’s the best TV show ever! You mention it a couple times and let a year go by before bringing it up again. Hopefully, between those moments, you’re checking in with your friends, thanking them, asking them questions, and recommending other shows. 

Second, when you chronically promote yourself, you burn out. Being an author whose #1 marketing goal is to vie for attention is ironically ineffective. The internet has become a noisy place. ‘Right message, right person, right time’ isn’t enough when 10,000 other authors have zapped your ideal reader’s attention that day.

So here is my suggestion: collaborate with trusted authors in your genre. Great things happen when we become each other’s referral networks:

You’ll show up with fabulous recommendations for your ideal readers, even when it doesn’t help our bottom line, directly speaking, which makes them feel you have their interest at heart.

And while we spotlight other authors to build rapport with our readers, those authors are spotlighting us.

No more chronic self-promotion. No more showing up just for the sake of it because you heard marketing is about making touch points. When done right, your collaborations bring warm leads in for you.

Does this resonate? If so, I’d love to invite you to Sell Books With Collabs, an event where authors will hang out in Zoom together to learn collaboration strategies AND do tons of networking with other collaborative authors. It runs from Jan 24-27, 2023. You can sign up here for FREE through my affiliate link.

Sell Books With Collabs Summit

If you upgrade to the VIP pass, you’ll get invite-only access to ATTEND the event in ZOOM where you’ll meet and bond with your future collab besties and get work done together. On top of that, you’ll get thousands of dollars worth of bonuses specifically made to help you write, publish, and sell more books on launch day and beyond. These bonuses include deep discounts as well as totally gifted software tools, courses, books, services and more.

Here’s why this is such an amazing opportunity. It can feel intimidating to approach industry experts doing incredible things, collaborating, platforming each other, and growing together, almost like they’re in some club. How do you get in the club?

Chances are not great that your dream partners will come knocking on your doorstep, and that’s okay because you can go to them; no one who is ahead of you is better than you. But remember, relationship-builders make and maintain friendships with relationship builders, so show them you are indeed a relationship builder when it comes to marketing your book. When you find your dream partners, think about approaching them in a way that makes them want to engage.

Thank them, introduce them to their dream partners or clients, check in with them, and invite them to speak on your podcast or at your summit. These are all ways to foster friendships with authors who already serve your ideal readers. People are more likely to say, ‘Sure!’ to promoting you when you have a track record of caring about them. The know-like-trust factor applies to colleagues, too,

At Sell Books With Collabs, you’ll learn collaboration strategies and walk away with lifelong partners you can collaborate with right away. The event features a variety of presentations and coworking and networking sessions scheduled between 1:30 and 9 p.m. Eastern each day. Watch the live stream or grab a VIP Pass and enter the Zoom session where you’ll form important partnerships. The speakers are bookselling and collaboration experts who will give short live presentations. Grab a VIP Pass and you’ll get direct access to them to ask your follow-up questions.

Presentation will be spaced out so that, in between, VIP attendees can network in breakout rooms, cowork to music, stretch, and play. All attendees will also have access to a private Facebook group where authors will be partying it up before the event starts and working together to figure out what types of collaborations best serve their readers and brands.

I bought my VIP ticket and hope to see you at Sell Books With Collabs so that this year you can explode your book marketing.

Affiliate links were included in this post, however, I only promote products and events that I recommend.

 

5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

improve writing flow

 

This guest post on how to improve your writing flow was written by Asha Caldwell.   

There’s no single best way to define what writing “flow” looks like, but the Writing Center at the University of Carolina explains that writing that “flows” is a piece that can be read smoothly from beginning to end. Readers should be able to easily establish connections between ideas without stopping or having to reread. To put it simply, it’s writing that’s easy to digest and follow. To make your writing flow seamlessly, it has to be cohesive and well-written.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Sentence and Word Variety

Vary the types of sentences you use. You should mix up the length of the sentences to create a natural rhythm for your readers. This ensures that they are carried from one sentence to the next, enabling them to move easily through the prose. Additionally, you should also make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same words. If writing fiction, there are some words that should be used sparingly, with the most infamous ones being “look” and “said.” Check out our ‘Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book’ post for tips on how to conquer crutch words.

Tip #2: Brevity

World famous author Stephen King in On Writing highlighted the need to always be looking to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases as a crucial step in writing. King relates how some of the best advice given to him was to always look to take things out during the rewrite. He emphasizes how simple writing delivers without the need to over-explain. For example, a sentence with too many descriptive words or unnecessary articles can detract readers from understanding what you want to convey.

Tip #3: Structure

The structure of an article or e-book is fundamental in terms of flow. A reader should be able to easily follow the prose as it moves from one topic to the next. If the writing lacks a cohesive through-line the reader can easily get distracted or lost. When writing an article, you should outline the key points in the introduction and continually refer back to them throughout the article.

Tip #4: Old-to-New

An old-to-new approach to writing means you don’t presume that readers are familiar with the subject matter. Instead, writing experts at the University of Arizona recommend that you consider anything already mentioned in the piece to be old and all concepts and ideas written for the first time to be new. This lets you build a solid foundation for your readers that they can easily follow. Anything you’ve already put in writing can serve as a springboard for future paragraphs and sections. Writing this way reduces the likelihood of readers needing time to pause and do additional research on the topic, which hinders them from reading the material as intended.

Tip #5: Inspiration

Writing should be inspirational, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  Put simply, there has to be a purpose behind your writing. There has to be an end goal. For fiction writers, outline the story’s key points so you know what the ideas are leading up to. Similarly, nonfiction writers should have a thesis statement or a definite opinion on which everything hinges. This helps you streamline your piece and keep everything in a cohesive flow.

Just as everyone has their own writing style, each writer has their own way to make their writing flow. That being said, these tips are excellent starting points for finding your unique flow.

 

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Revising Strategies for My Mother’s Secret Historical Novel @IamAlinaAdams

Behind The Rewrite: 5 Revising Strategies for My Mother’s Secret Historical Novel @IamAlinaAdams

revising strategies

Welcome to New York Times Bestselling Author Alina Adams, who is returning to the blog to share 5 changes she made to her latest book, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region. Keep reading to get insight into Alina’s revising strategies on this intriguing historical fiction book, which is rooted in detailed research about a little known chapter of Soviet and Jewish history. 

Change #1: The Beginning

The first draft of the book which became My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region opened with three chapters setting up the “present day” sequence—San Francisco, CA 1988. (When the bulk of the book takes place in the 1930s and 1940s, 1988 is “modern.”)

It introduced the heroine, Lena, her difficult relationship with her withholding mother, the death of her beloved father, her teenage daughter, and her controlling husband—as well as the man who would become a potential love interest in the future. The three chapters went into great detail about why Lena always felt unloved by her mother, and how her faltering marriage got to this state: Lena used to love that her husband made all of her decisions for her. It made her feel that he cared about her in a way that her mother did not. Now she feels smothered. Her husband’s not the one that changed; Lena is. She knows it and blames herself  . . . but she still can’t help feeling like she wants out. It’s guilt about her daughter that’s making her stay.

However, the feedback I got was to get to the “good stuff”— the story of Lena’s mother and her desperate escape to Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region on the border between Russia and China in the mid-1930s—faster.

So the original three chapters became a single prologue which, in the hardback version, now runs a tight 12 pages. I still hit all the main points, but much more compactly. You have to wait for Part Three to get the details. And learn how it all turns out.

 

Change #2: In the Name of the Father

The first lines of the book read: Lina Mirapolsky’s father was dying. Her husband was trying to get a discount on it.

The newly truncated prologue still opens with the death of Lena’s dad, and her surprise at the way her mother reacts to it.

In the first draft, Lena has always known that he’s her stepfather and adored him anyway.

In the rewrite, his cryptic, dying words send Lena on a hunt which reveals that the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father.

I initially deliberately avoided that, because it felt too cliched, but was ultimately convinced to put it in for the “wham” moment which closes out the prologue. Curious to hear what readers think!

 

Change #3: Straight Ahead

Part Two of My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region follows Lena’s mother, Regina, from the time a neighbor in her family’s Moscow communal apartment introduces 12-year-old Regina to the dream of Birobidzhan, getting her involved with the Yiddish-language newspaper she publishes as well as the historic figures committed to the cause of an independent Jewish homeland in the Soviet Union, until 18- year-old Regina is forced to flee Moscow to avoid being arrested along with her neighbor and all their compatriots.

In the original draft, the story is told chronologically. In the published version, we first meet Regina as she is fleeing, and the question of what she is fleeing from is left unanswered until much later in the story, when she is forced to confess all. The idea here is to set up suspense as to why Regina is on the run, what she is hiding, and her reasons for being so secretive with everyone she meets, including the man she starts to fall in love with.

 

Change #4: Slap, Slap, Kiss, Kiss

In my first pass, Regina’s initial meeting with her future love interest is full of antagonism. Regina smugly feels she knows what’s best for Birobidzhan because she’s read books about it better than Aaron, the man who has lived there for years. This leads to lots of witty banter—the kind I frankly, love to write. But it also made Regina come off as unlikable. (I was writing her as a know-it-all teen-ager who would eventually come to realize the error of her ways, wise up, mature, and admit her youthful folly. But I guess nobody wants to wait that long.)

Now, Regina is still cryptic with Aaron, but it’s because she has a secret she doesn’t want him to discover, and also because she is deliberately turned against him by a third party with his own agenda.

The pair still argues and banters, and I was even able to keep some of the same dialogue. But the context and motivation is different, making her less of a brat, and more of a scared kid.

 

Change #5: Where the Wind Takes You

My first idea for Regina’s story was to have it take place exclusively in Birobidzhan. The little-known history of the place, as well as the paranoid atmosphere—anyone could be arrested at any moment, everyone was always spying on their neighbors, loyalties were constantly shifting, and what was politically safe to say one day could, overnight, become treason—seemed ripe for gripping narrative possibilities.

But then, I decided to up the stakes. Historical fiction, especially featuring Jewish characters, has plundered every aspect of the Holocaust. There isn’t nearly as much written about what was happening at the same time in the Soviet Union.

The USSR lost over 24 million people in their “Great Patriotic War,” roughly half of them military, the other half civilian. The Russians then—as now—fight by throwing bodies at the enemy, treating them as disposable. And then there were the Nazi prisoner of war camps. Western powers were signatories to the Geneva convention. The Soviets were not. Even when they were kept in the same camp, American soldiers were treated much better than Soviet ones. (There’s a reason there were no Soviet prisoners having a goofy, fun time in Hogan’s Heroes.)

Once I did my research there, I decided to throw my heroes from the frying pan of Josef Stalin’s Great Terror into the fire of a Nazi POW camp.

After all, isn’t one aspect of compelling writing to make it seem like things can’t get any worse  . . .  and then make them get worse?

 

More About the Book

historical novel

Buy it on Amazon

With his dying breath, Lena’s father asks his family a cryptic question: “You couldn’t tell, could you?” After his passing, Lena stumbles upon the answer that changes her life forever.

As her revolutionary neighbor mysteriously disappears during Josef Stalin’s Great Terror purges, 18-year-old Regina suspects that she’s the Kremlin’s next target. Under cover of the night, she flees from her parents’ communal apartment in 1930s Moscow to the 20th century’s first Jewish state, Birobidzhan, on the border between Russia and China. Once there, Regina has to grapple with her preconceived notions of socialism and Judaism while asking herself the eternal question: What do we owe each other? How can we best help one another? While she contends with these queries and struggles to help Birobidzhan establish itself, love and war are on the horizon.

Order on Amazon.

More About Alina

Alina Adams

New York Times Bestselling Author Alina Adams draws on her own experiences as a Jewish refugee from Odessa, USSR as she provides readers a rare glimpse into the world’s first Jewish Autonomous Region. My Mother’s Secret is rooted in detailed research about a little known chapter of Soviet and Jewish history while exploring universal themes of identity, love, loss, war, and parenthood. Readers can expect a whirlwind journey as Regina finds herself and her courage within one of the century’s most tumultuous eras.

Alina is the author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romance novels. She was born in Odessa, USSR and moved to the US with her family in 1977. She has covered figure skating for ABC, NBC, ESPN and Lifetime, and worked for the soap-operas As the World Turns, Guiding Light, All My Children, and One Life To Live. Her historical fiction novels, The Nesting Dolls (2020) and My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region are based on a combination of family history and rigorous research.

Read Alina’s previous Behind the Rewrite post, about her novel The Nesting Dolls, here.

Visit Alina around the web.

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Twitter

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Never Enough Time To Write: 5 Ways To Discover Your Writer Rhythm

Never Enough Time To Write: 5 Ways To Discover Your Writer Rhythm

never enough time to write

Do you feel as if there is never enough time to write? Then you’ll enjoy these valuable time management tips from Daria White, an author, podcaster, and online course creator. Below, Daria shares five ways to discover your author rhythm. 

“There’s never enough time!” How many times do we say that as authors? “I would write if I didn’t have XYZ to do” or, “There’s so much going on that I can’t make the time.” It’s understandable. Writing is a skill that needs focus and attention. Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction author, you need time to organize your thoughts before you type or write it on paper.

What would you say if I told you there was a way to discover your unique writing rhythm? All authors have a unique way of telling a story, but few realize this also pertains to their writing patterns too. There’s a way to expect your word count without the guesswork. You don’t have to wait years to discover it and you don’t have to write 3-4 hours a day. So here are five ways to discover your writer’s rhythm. A system you can use again and again!

#1: Customization

I call this “catering your time” to writing. You can create a schedule that fits your life perfectly. No need to compare yourself to another writer. If you can only write in the mornings, do that. Are you a night owl writer? Do that! I recommend printed weekly plan sheets or an app. Fill out everything you do for the week, i.e. job, family, etc., and whatever’s left over is what I call your “time pockets.” Should your schedule change the following week, adjust it as needed. Customize it to fit your lifestyle and write!

# 2: Your Writer Average

What’s your common number? How many words can you typically write in a single session? 1000 words? 300 words? It doesn’t matter as long as you know your number. If you don’t know this, especially if you’re brand new to writing, aim for 500 words in 20-30 minutes. Repeat this 2-3 times and see where you land. For me, I can write 500-1300 in 30-45 minutes. I don’t worry when I sit to write. I know what to expect. You can too and this number is unique to you! Your progress once you know your personal writing average will surprise you.

#3: Sprinting

Some can interchange this term with fast drafting, but you don’t have to sit 3-4 hours writing on your laptop. In fact, once you know your writing average, you can backtrack. For example, you want to write 15K in a week. If you know your writer average is 1,000 words in 30 mins, then all you’d need to do is write 3,000 words for the day. With sprinting, all you need is an hour and a half. Do this for five days and you’ll make your 15K goal! All it takes is breaking down the numbers.

#4 You don’t have to write every day

As you can see in the example above, I used five days instead of the full seven. Whether you write Monday through Friday or Tuesday through Saturday, don’t think you have to write every single day trying to finish your goal. All it takes is strategy. Working the numbers to fit your expectations. Take the breaks when necessary and don’t exhaust yourself. You’re not a lazy writer by resting.

 

No time to write

 

#5: Embrace your true writing process

There will be weeks where you don’t hit your goal, and that’s fine. You may need to take a hiatus to recharge. It’s understandable. Writing is tough, so don’t add unnecessary stress trying to overdo it. When you embrace your unique writing style, nothing can stop you. Knowing your schedule, your average, the times you can sprint, there’s no word count you can’t handle! This is about coming into your own as an author and with persistence, you unleash your writing rhythm!

In conclusion, this goes beyond writing the words, but you, as an author, tapping into your unique writing system. Once it’s discovered, it’s yours and even when you have off days, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can pick up where you left off and keep going! You have a book to finish. It’s time to type “the end” and get it into the hands of eager readers!

If you’d like to learn more about this concept of discovering your true writing process, check out my online course, No Time Writer. New and ambitious authors learn timesaving techniques that bring them confidence, peace, and relief no matter their word counts. They embrace their true author identity, unleash the writer within, so that they can finish their first drafts!

Learn more about No Time Writer today!

More About Daria

Daria White has lived in Texas for most of her life. She disliked reading as a kid. In fact, she almost hated it. However, as she grew up, that all changed. Though she received her degree in healthcare management, Daria kept her writing as a hobby. She meant it to be private and her own way of expressing herself. It never crossed her mind to publish until she was in college. So, she took a chance and self-published. It worked! Starting off as a sweet romance writer first, Daria branched out in 2020 with books in cozy mystery and Christian fiction.

She’s also a podcaster (Writer in the Making) and course creator (WIM Plus 2.0) helping new and ambitious authors gain confidence, peace, relief, using timesaving techniques. Sign up for her author mailing list for additional resources.

 

Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book: Free Looks and Gazes Guide

Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book: Free Looks and Gazes Guide

overused emotion words for writers

I have a brand new free resource to help you cut down on overused emotion words in your writing. It’s called The Looks and Gazes Quickstart Guide.

As a freelance developmental editor and line editor, I’ve worked on hundreds of manuscripts. Mysteries, suspense, romance, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, historical, young adult, memoirs, essays, health, self-help. You’ve named it, I’ve probably edited it.

Despite the diverse categories, all those books have something in common. Each author has overused emotion words they fall back on in their writing. Crutch words weaken your voice and weigh down your story.

Want to know what the biggest culprit is?

You guessed it.

Look.

Looking.

Looked.

If you do a search in your manuscript, I’ll bet you find more “looks” than you expected. It’s not that you can never use look and its variations. It’s just that you shouldn’t overuse them. Some authors have one on every page, multiple times. Over a 300-page novel, that is one heck of a lot of looks.

Even if your overuse isn’t that extreme, chances are you’ve got more than you need. Most writers are stunned once I point it out to them.

 

Eliminate Overused Emotion Words 

body language tips for writers

Nonverbal communication is tough for writers. It’s so tough that I created a whole course around it: The Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

The toolkit contains jam-packed cheat sheets of over 4,000 emotional prompts in 21 categories such as anger, annoyance and frustration, arrogance, boredom, compassion, confidence, and contemplation. And that’s just A-C! It also includes a walk-through video, overview of nonverbal communication for authors, examples from published books, a workbook, a list of helpful tips, and bonus resources.

Writers have raved about it, as you’ll see from the testimonials when you visit the landing page.

If you’d like to sample the Energize Your Writing Toolkit, then you can start by signing up for The Looks and Gazes Quickstart Guide. Discover more than 100 ways to describe your characters’ looks and gazes and start punching up those trite sentences. The cheat sheets come directly from the Energize Your Writing Toolkit.

Download The Looks and Gazes Quickstart Guide today.

Free Book Editing Masterclass: 3 Costly Mistakes Writers Should Avoid

Free Book Editing Masterclass: 3 Costly Mistakes Writers Should Avoid

book editing masterclass

 

If you’re an author or aspiring author, I’ve got a free book editing masterclass you’re going to love. The workshop is called How to Create Your Editing Game Plan and Fast-Track Your Book: 3 Costly Mistakes to Avoid.  

Too many writers are making a big mistake. They’re not giving their manuscript the rehabilitation it needs, even though it’s suffering from the literary equivalent of bursitis, sciatica, an ACL tear, and plantar fasciitis.

Ouch!

Some writers believe their manuscript is much stronger than it really is because let’s face it, no one teaches you how to write a book in high school. Others aren’t sure what to do next, so they tinker without a strategy. Eventually, they might send the book to a freelance editor, and only then do they realize that one round of editing won’t be enough by a longshot.

Just like a single physical therapy visit won’t suffice for a person coping with bursitis, sciatica, an ACL tear, or plantar fasciitis—let alone ALL of those ailments at the same time.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most writers, your manuscript is a minefield of injuries and weak spots. It needs a comprehensive rehab plan and lots of TLC.

Free Book Editing Masterclass

If you are someone with a desire to help your book reach its full potential and give your story the chance it deserves, then I want to invite you to watch an on-demand recording of my FREE training: How to Create Your Editing Game Plan and Fast-Track Your Book: 3 Costly Mistakes to Avoid.

After this class, you will be able to identify the:

  • 4 stages of editing
  • Types of editors and what they do
  • Average costs of publishing a book

You’ll also walk away knowing:

  • Why hiring an editor too early can be a costly mistake
  • The differences between high-level and low-level edits so that you can aim high
  • The basics of the self-editing framework I’ve taught to hundreds of authors

Intrigued? Sign up for this free book editing masterclass right here.

 

Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

why journalists make great novelists

As many of you know, I was a journalist before I became a freelance editor and online course creator. Although I had published a YA book before getting into journalism, my job working for a daily newspaper inspired my first adult novel, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, about an obit writer and aspiring reporter who becomes obsessed with solving a cold case.

That’s why when Asha Belle Caldwell approached me about a guest post on why journalists make great novelists, I loved the idea. My reporting experience definitely improved my overall fiction-writing and editing skills. I used to handwrite my first drafts until one of my editors caught me writing a School Committee meeting article in a notebook, shook his head vigorously, and said, “There’s no time for that. You have to write on the computer.” That skill quickly transferred to my novels. Journalism also taught me about the importance of hooking the reader with a lead, doing research, meeting deadlines, and much more.

Below, you can read Asha Belle’s article delving into the topic of why journalists make good novelists.   

From the outside, journalists and novelists seem like they belong at the opposite ends of the writing spectrum — one dealing with hard reality and the other with made-up worlds and scenarios. Yet the opposite is true and many of the skills journalists have learned have helped them become novelists. For example, author Sara Goudarzi outlines that her science journalism background helped her cope with the unfamiliar loneliness of writing a novel.

And she is far from being the only journalist- turned author. Some of the most popular authors that we know of today started out as journalists. Mark Twain, the icon of sharp-witted admonishment about racism and slavery, started out as a journalist. Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, whose richly imagined fantasy works have consumed pop culture, also started out as a journalist. Other remarkable novelists belonging to this roster include Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and a score of others.

Journalists’ interaction with the real world allows them to scavenge great material for their novels. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Many journalists start with fiction

Writers are often avid readers, and fiction is often the first encounter we have with literature as children. So the most straightforward explanation for why journalists make great novelists is that many of them were already reading or writing fiction. Even renowned fiction authors like Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith have come to contribute to established publications like The Guardian and The New Yorker to provide critique on culture and current events.

Of course, there is a wide gap between the creative process for journalism and fiction. But working under the pressure of deadlines and having to practice economy of words is sure to enrich journalists’ writing style and discipline, even when applied to writing novels.

Journalists are storytellers

It’s time to break the myth — journalism is never objective. This is because all successful journalists and other formal writing professionals have one common essential communication skill: a commitment to storytelling. Even though the discipline focuses on the facts and upholds truth, at every point in the writing process, journalists will be framing the narrative in a way that gets the readers to empathize with their version of the story.

The Pulitzer Prizes annually award journalists for exceptional reporting. For example, in 2020, Ben Taub of the New Yorker won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a deeply perturbing, and yet melodically lyrical, account of a man unjustly kidnapped and detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. His works exhibit the skillful crafting of a real-life story to illustrate the emotional depth of what would otherwise be an unheard story.

Journalists have to choose which elements to highlight and whose perspective to prioritize. In a similar manner, these skills of selecting elements and enhancing perspectives are useful in the novel-writing process when writers have to set the scene, drive their theme forward, and get the readers to feel the way they want them to.

Journalists learn about the world

Fiction does not exist in a bubble. It’s important to portray real human emotions and create imaginary settings that are believable to make your story convincing for your readers.

Journalism serves as an incredible resource for learning about the world and acquiring information that can benefit novelists. Journalists are always meeting new people and visiting new places. The late Joan Didion, for instance, wrote about California’s hippie counterculture in the 60s and 70s with unconventional novel-like qualities. She also observed and critiqued Hollywood in all its glamour and horror, and wrote about pivotal events like the Manson murders and the women’s movement.

Ultimately, journalist training offers writers the opportunities to expand their perceptions of reality in ways that can be explored further in fiction.

When it comes to the creative process, writers aren’t that much different from one another. At the heart of telling stories are sensitivity to the world and the impulse to portray it with your words. Journalists-turned-novelists prove that when it comes to the creative process, you can derive endless material from the world around you.

Behind The Rewrite With Justin Doyle: 5 Major Changes To YA Space Opera @JustinD_n_Space

Behind The Rewrite With Justin Doyle: 5 Major Changes To YA Space Opera @JustinD_n_Space

YA space opera

Welcome to Justin Doyle who gave us a sneak peek behind the rewrite of his YA space opera, Embargo on Hope. Here are five areas that Justin focused on while editing his science fiction book.  

Embargo on Hope took me over fifteen years from first words on paper to publish. I worked on it sporadically until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I knew it was time to finally meet that lifelong goal of getting published.

I had never had anyone other than friends and family read it and provide feedback, so my line editor had some work to do. The manuscript was greatly improved by the changes below, and even better, now I know to look out for these things in my future novels (like the sequel, Assassination of Hope, coming this summer!)

 

Change #1: Adding Before-the-Chapter Background Blurbs

This change was a major change suggested by my editor, but it made a huge difference. I had some stilted conversations where I was trying to expose details of the world that added depth and foreshadowed conflict. That included some of the “butler-and-maid” dialogue where characters were sharing things they already knew.

I was also limited by my 16-year-old protagonist’s first person perspective. There were simply things he just didn’t know or understand, so there wasn’t an easy way to introduce it into the narrative.

Finally, this allowed me to keep the story moving along. There were places where the main character was in the middle of something, but I spent a paragraph or two detracting from that thing before getting back. It really broke the flow of the novel.

Change #2: Breaking Up Action With Introspection

I had a lot of go-go-go, where one action scene would lead directly into another. My editor encouraged me to add scenes where the POV character reflected on what happened, how it affected him, and how it affected his goals. The introspection scenes not only gave the reader a chance to “take a breath,” but it helped each action scene mean more while adding depth to my character. Without the introspection, the action scenes seemed to be there more just for the sake of action.

 

Change #3: Several Chapters or Chapter Breaks Began With the POV Character Waking Up

When I was first writing, I was getting too hung up on “this happened, then this happened, then this happened,” even if the “this” in the middle wasn’t relevant or interesting. A  great example of this is I had several chapters or chapter breaks where the character would start by waking up. It’s unnecessary and honestly a little boring. Just start your chapters a little later where things started happening. I think it was Dan Brown’s Masterclass where he said “start chapters as late as possible.” He was talking specifically about writing thrillers, but honestly I think it applies to most kinds of modern writing.

 

Change #4: Added Some Light-hearted/Bonding Scenes

Related to #2, I had so many action/fight scenes, which made each a little less meaningful and didn’t allow the characters to build relationships (except in the heat of battle). Adding light-hearted scenes allowed me to show different facets of all of the characters’ personalities while allowing them to build rapport, and even a love interest relationship. I was also able to use these scenes to write different settings and build some depth in the world.

 

Change #5: Making Sure Other Main Characters Had Their Own Goals

I think authors fall into a common trap of the character serving one or more plotlines or just the main character’s interests. My editor encouraged me to make sure not only did the other main characters have their own goals, but that I made them clear in the text. That can be difficult in a first person novel, but it can be used as a growth point for your main character, e.g. realizing the world doesn’t revolve around them. It helps explain their motivations and makes them feel more authentic. It can also help with twists – at first, something may seem “out of character” but when the reader examines their goals more closely, they realize that it made perfect sense.

More About the Book

 

Embargo on Hope

Buy it on Amazon

5 Stars – This action-packed adventure will fully immerse the reader… any fan of science fiction or action-adventure would enjoy this book.” – Reader’s Favorite
“…a gifted story that is exceptionally compelling.” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Even gods have secrets…

On planet Vastire, worth is set by the sins of one’s ancestors. Good families rise to the elite and the wicked fall into poverty. Unfortunately for sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark, his father incited a revolution. Now, Darynn scrounges his way through life in the slums. When Vastire is surrounded by an embargo, it gets even harder to survive.

That all changes when an alien ship slips through the embargo, seeking Darynn with an offer: finish the revolution and the embargo ends. He might have a chance thanks to mysterious magic powers, and his two companions: clairvoyant crush Fyra and soldierly alien Kaylaa. Cutthroat killers, mystical beasts, Vampires, power-hungry priests and lords, and self-serving spies stand in their way. If the three of them can crack his father’s secret, maybe they can end the embargo and save the poor. If not, another poor orphan will be added to the growing piles of dead.

More About Justin

Justin was born in Galveston, TX and raised in the Houston area. In middle school, he fell in love with two life-long pursuits: space and writing. He knew he wanted to work at NASA and write science fiction/fantasy on the side, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what he ended up doing. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and an M.S. in Systems Engineering. He now works for Barrios Technology as a project engineer on the Gateway program. He lives in the Houston area with his wife, daughter, and various small mammals.

Check out his website starmarked.mailchimpsites.com for more information on him, bonus material in the Star Marked universe, and upcoming releases.

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Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers Freebies including a 5-day line editing course, Facebook group, and resource for naming your characters.

Check out Shortcuts for Writers affordable courses including Book Editing Blueprint: A Step by Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, Time Management Blueprint for Writers, and the Energize Your Writing Toolkit: Cheat Sheets for Character Emotions.

Editing Shortcuts For Writers – Writer’s Tribe Talk Show Interview

Editing Shortcuts For Writers – Writer’s Tribe Talk Show Interview

Writer's Tribe Talk Show

If you could use some editing tips, then I’d love for you to check out my interview on The Writer’s Tribe Talk Show. Host Elsa Kurt asked me lots of insightful questions about my writing journey, how I became an editor and online course creator, and the common mistakes that writers make.

We talked about the ups and downs of the publishing path and why most new authors are flabbergasted when they read their first editorial letter. You’ll hear about the shock I experienced as a teen author receiving editing feedback.

We also shared some helpful advice for busy authors. You can watch the interview on YouTube (see the video below) or listen on your favorite podcast app including Apple Podcasts  and Spotify.

Be sure to check out other episodes of the podcast as well. Elsa talks about all things writing, publishing, and promoting. She has interviewed authors in many genres and has also discussed topics like TikTok for Authors, Imposter Syndrome, your elevator pitch, and roadblocks to writing.

 

 

 

Take On The Grammar Habit With These Simple Steps

Take On The Grammar Habit With These Simple Steps

grammar habit

If grammar is your nemesis as a writer, then let me introduce you to Ellen Sue Feld, the creator/instructor of online grammar refresher courses at grammar-lion.com and the author of Comma Sense: Your Guide to Grammar Victory. Below, Ellen offers valuable advice on building a good grammar habit.

Because I teach grammar, people assume I believe good grammar is the key to good writing. But I don’t believe that, not for one second. Here’s what I do believe: Your creative process is the most important part of your writing. Checking for good grammar comes later. Good grammar doesn’t make good writing, but good writing demands good grammar.

So how do we make good grammar a natural part of our writing process? By developing good grammar habits!

Recently, I listened to a podcast about the new science of habit building. (The good news is that we don’t have to harness anything magical or elusive, like willpower.) We can build good grammar habits using the same strategies that work for building any new habit.

Here’s the current thinking:

  • Desire the habit.
  • Start small.
  • Attach the new habit to an existing habit.
  • Make it fun.
  • Do it with consistency.
  • Create accountability and/or support.

Whew! That may sound like a lot. But don’t worry. While developing good grammar habits, you don’t need to employ all the strategies above. Sometimes just a few will do the trick.

I’m going to add a couple of my own that have proved true in my experience as an instructor and writer:

  • Expand what you know (i.e., remain open to learning).
  • Listen selectively to what others have to say; be discerning in your research.
  • Commit to reviewing your work before sharing or submitting it.

Let’s make this real with some common grammar problems you’ll want to consider:

  • run-on sentences
  • lack of subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement
  • homophones
  • random commas and lack of commas
  • ambiguous pronouns
  • wordiness
  • shifts in person and tense
  • dangling and misplaced modifiers
  • punctuation with quotation marks
  • punctuation with conjunctive adverbs
  • capitalization

We all come to grammar at our own starting place. Cross off what you don’t need to work on, and add more topics as you think of them.

Building Good Grammar Habits

Now let’s use habit building to turn around these grammar problems in our writing. For our example, we’ll use homophones as our target good grammar habit.

  • Desire the habit. If the desire isn’t there, you’re unlikely to develop a good new habit. So what might motivate you as a writer? Consider this: Your writing is a reflection of who you are, and you want the best possible reflection. In other words, you don’t want anything to detract from the overall picture of the wonderful writer you are. Good grammar will enhance your writer’s image.

Resolve: I want my writing to be polished and professional. And I want to have confidence in my writing whenever I share it with someone else.

  • Start small. You don’t have to know everything. Begin with one, two, or three points of grammar to master. You can always challenge yourself later with additional topics.

Resolve: I want to be sure I’m using the right homophone. I’m aware I sometimes mix up their, there, and they’re even though I know the differences. I’ll pay more attention to this.

  • Attach the new habit to an existing habit. You’re already set because you’ve attached the habit of using good grammar to your existing habit of writing and editing. One of the great things about grammar is that you get to practice your skills every time you write. Practice is naturally built in to the process!

Resolve: When I’ve finished writing, I’ll review my work and look for their/there/they’re to make sure I’ve used them correctly. I’m also going to start a list of homophones I mix up. I’ll check my writing against that list.

  • Make it fun. Reward yourself. Use what’s positive for you. Here are a few ideas for adding pleasure to your grammar-check process: Eat a jellybean when you catch an error. Play your own special grammar-check music in the background. Compile a list of the errors you catch so that your pride in recognition will grow as your list grows.

Resolve: I love numbers and puzzles as much as I love words, so I’ll enjoy solving a sudoku after I do a grammar check. 

  • Do it with consistency. This may feel hard. We’re often pressed for time. But try your best to factor in time for a grammar check. It’s a vital part of your writing process.

Resolve: I’ll look for homophone errors in all my writing, including emails and texts.

  • Create accountability. If you thrive on community support, go ahead and tell someone about your new plan to build good grammar habits. Keep them updated on your progress. And if you like to work solo, that’s fine, too. You can be accountable to yourself.

Resolve: This is a pact I’m making with myself.

  • Be open to ongoing learning. You’re learning every time you look up something online, go to a dictionary, take a course, or ask another writer a question. Every little bit you learn and put to use contributes to big changes in your writing.

Resolve: A writer friend just mentioned whet/wet to me in the expression “whet your appetite.” I always thought it was “wet your appetite”! Though I’m aware of a few other homophones I misuse, I’m going to have some fun perusing lists.

  •  Be discerning. There’s a lot of information out there. You know not all of it is legit. Some well-meaning people can inadvertently spread misinformation. Vet your sources. For example, if a grammar information site is connected to a university, it’s more likely than a random site to be trustworthy.

Resolve: I just found a comprehensive online grammar resource. It’s a writing lab that’s part of a public university, and it’s available to everyone. It’s easy to use, and I can trust what I learn there.

  • Review your work before submitting. When you’ve finished writing, take a break. Walk away. Distance will help you spot errors when you come back. Then read through your work in an unhurried way. Because we get accustomed to our own words, it’s easy to overlook errors. Reading aloud can help. Another useful technique is reading your work from the bottom up, paragraph by paragraph. If you can, read from a print version instead of on the screen.

Resolve: I’m going to factor in a few minutes of grammar review time for every thousand words. This will allow me be methodical and relaxed.

You may be wondering how long it takes to build a new habit. It depends on how complex the habit is and how often and how much you get to practice. The more consistent you are—as in doing a grammar check and making corrections every time you write—the quicker you’ll develop the habit. But this isn’t a race. Good grammar habits are for the long term, for as long as you are a writer.

Come join us at Grammar Lion of Facebook (@grammarlion). We’re a diverse, international, nonjudgmental group of learners who aim to let no grammar question go unanswered. Everyone is welcome!

(Thank you to Hidden Brain for producing and sharing the podcast “Creatures of Habit.” You can find it here: https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/creatures-of-habit/ )

 

More About Ellen’s Grammar Book

 

national grammar day

Comma Sense: Your Guide to Grammar VictoryLearn the rules of adverbs, punctuation, abbreviations, prepositions, and much more. Ellen covers topics such as em dashes, parentheticals and parallelism, diction and logic, run-on sentences and sentence fragments, and more. Become a master of capitalization and punctuation, subjects and predicates, and contractions and possessives. After every chapter, take a quiz to practice your new grammatical skills in this great grammar workbook. At the end of the book, a comprehensive test allows you to utilize all you have learned. At 512 pages, there is lots of content in this book! Readers who enjoyed The Elements of StyleActually, the Comma Goes HereThe Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation; or The Perfect English Grammar Workbook will love Comma Sense: A Guide to Grammar Victory

“In her new book, Comma Sense, Ellen Sue Feld demystifies grammar with clarity, conciseness, and empathy.”
—Anu Garg, author and founder of Wordsmith.org

“If you really want to go deep into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of grammar, then Comma Sense is for you. Ellen covers the basics like a pro and delivers practical examples to help you learn. You’ll never mess up ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ again!”
—Lisa Lepki, CMO at ProWritingAid

Buy it on:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble 

Bookshop 

Mango 

International via Book Depository

Learn more about Ellen here.

About The Grammar Refresher Course

Ellen also offers a self-paced online course, I recommend the course for those who struggle with issues such as:

  • Parts of speech
  • Contractions and possessives
  • Subjects and predicates
  • Sentence fragments
  • Run-on sentences
  • Agreement
  • Shifts in person, tense, and structure
  • Capitalization and punctuation

 Enroll here!

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