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.

 

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.

 

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!

5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

5 Common Mistakes Authors Make When Outlining Novels

outlining a novel

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this guest post on outlining from Rose Atkinson-Carter, a writer with Reedsy.

It’s one of the greatest debates in the #amwriting world: should you outline your novel before writing it, or should you pants it?

At the end of the day, the answer is simple: you should do whatever works best for you. That said, if you decide to give outlining a book a shot, stay alert. Outlining isn’t as clear-cut as copyrighting a book there are many ways to go about it. And while it’s a process that works magic for many authors, there are still a number of pitfalls that you can fall into along the way.

So without further ado, here are the top five common mistakes that you should watch out for while outlining your own book.

1. Sticking too much to the outline

Many authors make the mistake of outlining their story, then thinking to themselves, “Well, now I have to follow this word-for-word for the rest of time.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth! As Captain Barbarossa in Pirates of the Caribbean says, “The outline is more like guidelines than actual rules.”

Which is to say, an outline exists to guide you to the end of your story — not to restrict you as you’re writing it. Things are always going to be different when you start writing. Scenes might be longer than you expect. Characters might be the complete opposite of what you expected. Writing is always an act of discovery, and sticking too much to an outline kills that creative process. Let your story breathe when it needs to.

2. Trying only one kind of outline

Like Jolly Ranchers, there are many flavors of outlines in the world — and any one of them could work for you, depending on what kind of a writing mood you’re in. For instance:

Do you have a jumbled mess of ideas in your head that might just come out to a story? You might want to try to mind map it first to organize all of your thoughts.

Do you already have a vague idea of your plot in mind, but don’t know how to flesh that out further? Then a beat sheet might be best for you.

Do you have a few key scenes in mind already? Then you might want to outline your story’s broad sequences —perhaps mapping it on the Three-Act structure — to get a sense of the overall arc of the story.

Trust me: there’s an outline for each writer out there. Just compare J.K. Rowling’s outlines to Joseph Heller’s! Their respective niches might have something to do with it: Harry Potter was, of course, published by YA publishers, meant to be read by a YA audience. As such, it was quite plot-oriented, which her outline reflects.

On the other hand, Joseph Heller’s outline for his literary fiction novel is much more character-focused. So don’t be afraid to branch out, depending on your genre. The most important thing is to keep experimenting to figure out which type of outline best suits your needs.

3. Neglecting the “big picture”

It’s easy to look at a completed outline and think that you have your entire story figured out. After all, you’ve got all of your scenes down on the page in front of you, haven’t you? Does that not a story make?

Not quite.

An outline might give you the skeleton of your book, easily affording you a bird’s eye view of all of your scenes at once. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve unlocked your themes yet—which is the heart of every story.

Themes and motifs most often emerge while you’re actually writing your book — that’s when you’ll start noticing patterns in the symbolism that you’re using and the messages that you’re conveying. Time and again, an author will only figure out what they’re trying to say only once they’ve finished the first draft. But if you’re outlining, never fear. As long as you keep this “big picture” top of mind while you’re constructing your scenes and sequences, then you’re already off to a running start.

4. Thinking of the outline as an extra step

If you ever find yourself thinking about your outline as a chore to get over with, or start to drag your feet whenever you return to your outline, stop. Drop your pencil. Turn to a blank page in your notebook. And just start writing your book.

You should think of the outline as the first step of your book, but the fun part is that it’s over whenever you want it to be over. You don’t necessarily need to plot out your entire story in order to have “officially” finished outlining. Even a broad sketch of your book’s arc is good enough to be your story’s guideposts in the future! After all, nobody’s grading your outline: it’s just a tool for you, so go along with it only as far as you need to.

So don’t feel compelled to outline every single nitty-gritty detail of your story. When you begin to see the outline as an extra step — not just the first — then that’s probably a sign that you’re ready to move on and start writing your book.

5. Spending too much time outlining

Last but not least, remember that an outline is not your be-all-end-all goal. It’s not the pot of gold at the rainbow. That should be your book. Not to mention that a first draft will always be subject to some rewriting anyway!

So don’t make the mistake that many authors make: spending so much time obsessing over their outline that they never get around to writing the actual book. There’s a point when outlining actually becomes counterproductive to your purposes because it’s stalling you from plunging ahead with your book.

Some authors find it difficult to move on from outlining because their outline has become too much of a safety net. Stepping out from that comfort zone to actually confront that blank page might be one scary leap, but take that leap with faith. Who knows? At the end of it, you might just emerge with a fully-formed book that’s ready to submit to publishers in the UK and all over the world — made all the better for the effort that you put into outlining it.

About the Author

Rose Atkinson-Carter is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best self-publishing resources and professionals like editors, designers, and ghostwriters. She lives in London.

6 Ways to Truly Get to Know Your Characters @thenovelsmithy

6 Ways to Truly Get to Know Your Characters @thenovelsmithy

 

get to know your characters

Thanks to Lewis Jorstad of the Novel Smithy for this guest post. Be sure to head over to his blog to read my post on 5 Line Editing Tips for Polishing Your Prose. 

When most writers sit down to outline their characters, their first order of business is creating a character profile. These profiles are a lot like dossiers from spy movies. Just like 007’s file might contain details about his appearance, skills, and relationships, so too will your character’s profile.

However, when writing a novel, appearances and relationships aren’t enough.

Unlike the baddies in spy movies, you aren’t just out to kill your characters—at least not right away! Instead, you’re trying to create a vibrant, realistic person for your readers to latch on to, meaning you need to delve deep into what makes them who they are. From their goals and desires, to their darkest fears, history, and inner struggle, these are the elements that will truly bring your characters to life.

With that in mind, let me walk you through six things you should know before writing your novel’s cast!

6 Things to Know for Every Character You Write

#1 – Their Role in Your Novel:

First things first—you need to know what role your character plays in your story.

Are they your protagonist, or are they a villain? Are they a mentor, shadow, shapeshifter, or herald? Regardless of what their role is, knowing it ahead of time will help you better understand who this character is in the context of your story.

This distinction is important. Knowing your character as a person is great, but you also need to understand how they’ll shape your novel itself. After all, your novel’s hero will be very different than a sidekick or minor antagonist—and thus will require a different level of detail.

Example: Luke Skywalker is the protagonist of Star Wars: A New Hope, while Ilsa Lund is an ally and shapeshifter in the movie Casablanca.

#2 – Their Story Goal:

Next, your character’s story goal is the personal goal or motivation that defines their adventure. This is what will push them to get involved in your plot, and it’ll stick with them for the majority of your novel, shaping every decision they make along the way.

Because of this, story goals are a critical piece of the character development puzzle. Conflicting story goals often cause characters to fight, get into trouble, and generally spark the kinds of interesting, complex situations that make for a good story!

Luckily, finding your character’s story goal is fairly simple.

Ask yourself—what do they want to achieve throughout your novel? Why do they get involved with your plot in the first place? What motivates them to take action? Once you answer these questions, you should have a solid idea of what story goal your character is pursuing.

Example: Luke Skywalker’s story goal in Star Wars: A New Hope is to prove himself capable of becoming a Jedi, while Ilsa’s goal is to escape the Nazis with her husband.

#3 – Their Inner Struggle:

Of course, your characters can’t achieve their goals too easily. Alongside plot-related hurdles, they’ll also need to face a major internal challenge or obstacle in order to earn their success. This obstacle is their inner struggle. Also called their lie or wound, this is a harmful belief or inner conflict that holds your character back throughout their journey—meaning overcoming it is the real point of their quest.

Fortunately, much like the story goal, the easiest way to find a character’s inner struggle is by asking a few targeted questions. What does your character believe about themselves or their world? How does this prevent them from achieving their goals? What lesson will they need to learn throughout their journey? Are they successful?

Once you’re considered these questions, you should be able to sum up your character’s inner struggle in a sentence or two.

Example: Luke Skywalker’s inner struggle is the belief that he’s a simple farm boy who’s incapable of greatness. Meanwhile, Ilsa’s inner struggle is her belief that she can ignore her love for Rick.

#4 – Their Backstory:

Moving on, we come to backstory.

Backstory is a tricky subject, because it’s easy to fill whole books with nothing but your character’s history. After all, we all have a list of life experiences that shape who we are, and the same is true for our characters. Every character you write will have some kind of past, and that past will influence their actions.

The question is, do you really need to write pages and pages of backstory?

Well, the short answer is no. Believe it or not, you only need to know one or two key events to understand your characters’ histories. These events are the most impactful experiences of their lives and are often the source of their inner struggle. So, think about the major events that define your characters! While you’re welcome to explore more of their backstory if you choose, these should be more than enough to provide context for who your characters are.

Example: Luke Skywalker was left with his aunt and uncle as a baby, meaning he spent his whole childhood daydreaming about his father’s life as a Jedi. As a result, he desperately wants to live up to his father’s legacy. Likewise, Ilsa’s backstory centers on her time in Paris with Rick, and the difficult decision she made to abandon Rick and return to save her husband when the Nazis invaded.

#5 – Their Character Arc:

Character arcs are a big topic in the writing world, and for good reason. Not only do arcs shape our characters’ personal journeys, but they often determine the kind of story we end up telling, too.

If you aren’t familiar with what a “character arc” is, this is the inner journey your character goes on throughout your novel. This arc can take one of three shapes:

  • A Positive Arc: Here your character learns to overcome their inner struggle and grow as a person, thus triumphing over the main conflict of their story.
  • A Negative Arc: Here your character ends up overwhelmed by their inner struggles, ultimately becoming a worse version of themselves and failing in their quest.
  • A Flat Arc: Here your character isn’t concerned with their own growth, but with guiding and teaching their world. To succeed in their arc, they must heal the inner struggle of the people around them.

Regardless of which arc your character follows, this arc will determine the path they take throughout your story—as well as how the other elements we’ve discussed play out. Do they learn and grow, wither and decay, or teach and heal?

Of course, not every character warrants an arc. Character arcs require a lot of time to develop, meaning they’re usually reserved for major characters like your protagonist, key allies, and your antagonist. Whether other character in your story warrant an arc is ultimately up to you!

Example: Luke Skywalker follows a positive arc, as does Ilsa. Both manage to overcome their inner struggle and succeed during the finale of their stories.

#6 – Their Beginning and End:

Finally, we come to your character’s “plot arc.”

You see, even characters without a character arc will still begin and end your story in different places. For instance, someone who starts your story a coward might eventually gain the courage to chart their own path—or they may fade into obscurity, unable to stand up for themselves. Likewise, a character who begins your novel as the school bully might end it isolated from their peers.

Whatever this journey looks like, identifying both its beginning and end (before you begin writing) will help ensure your characters remain dynamic. Even if their plot arc is subtle, it’ll still lend a sense of impact to your novel. After all, seeing characters change on the page is the best way to show your reader just how much your plot matters!

Example: Luke begins his story unsatisfied with his life as a farm boy and ends it as a hero of the rebellion. Ilsa begins her story running from the Nazis and lying to herself about her loyalties. She ends it having accepted that she can love Rick, while still standing by her husband.

————

In the end, these six elements should go a long way in helping you better understand your cast, and eventually turn that cast into a vibrant part of your novel.

Best of all, this information doesn’t have to take weeks and months to create! Grab a sheet of paper, jot down your character’s name, and then write a single paragraph for each of the components we discussed. By the time you’re done, I’m confident you’ll see your character with a fresh set of eyes.

More About Lewis

know your charactersLewis Jorstad is an author and developmental editor who helps up-and-coming writers hone their writing their craft over at The Novel Smithy. When he isn’t working on the next book in his Writer’s Craft series, you can find him playing old Gameboy games and sailing somewhere around the eastern half of the US. You can also check out his free ebook, The Character Creation Workbook, and grab a copy for yourself.

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Editing And Formatting For Authors Free Workshop Replay @AuthorEncounter

Editing And Formatting For Authors Free Workshop Replay @AuthorEncounter

editing and formatting for authors
Last weekend, I was honored to participate in an Editing and Formatting for Authors panel discussion organized by my friends Nan and Bethany at The Author Encounter. This event was part of The Author Encounter’s Indie Author Day. I was joined by freelance editor Deb Ewing and formatter Tamara Cribley of The Deliberate Page. (You can see my editing services here!)

Often the difference between an amateur book and a professional book is in the details. When it comes to publishing, those details are editing and formatting. In this candid discussion, we talked about the different types of editing and formatting and how to use them to produce a professional published book.

Topics included common mistakes that writers make when working with an editor, how editors decide which clients to work with, formatting trends for different genres, and more. Watch the video below for the replay.

The goal of The Author Encounter is to bring together authors and readers in a unique and intimate setting designed to give authors a chance to connect with their fans, and the fans (readers) the opportunity to spend time with their favorite authors, ask questions, and be a part of the stories and worlds created by the authors. You can learn more about their events and how to join here.

 

Improve Your Skills With These Free Grammar Resources

Improve Your Skills With These Free Grammar Resources

 

 

Grammar Resources

I’ve found some wonderful free grammar resources to share from my friend Ellen at Grammar Lion, which you’ll find listed below. As a freelance developmental editor and line editor, I work with a lot of writers. Many of them have problems with grammar and punctuation and I explain that they will definitely need to hire a copyeditor and proofreader for their final draft.

Some of my clients have grammar struggles due to learning disabilities, or maybe English isn’t their first language. For others, grammar doesn’t come as naturally to them as the creative part of writing a book. They might have errors in every line of the manuscript, or they may just need to brush up on certain rules such as when to use a comma and how to punctuate dialogue. For many of them, high school English class was a long time ago.

While I do light copyediting on my clients’ manuscripts, my focus is on developmental and line editing. There’s no sense fixing all the commas and run-on sentences when the manuscript needs structural rewrites as all those little changes will become obsolete. I will never specialize in copyediting or proofreading as in all honesty, I don’t like it. I find it tedious, and while I have a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style on my bookshelf, that is one monster of a book. It’s huge with small print, and I don’t enjoy hunting through it, trying to find the answer to small stylistic questions. I’d much rather brainstorm with the author on how to flesh out a character, or tinker with a sentence to make it more active and engaging.

When I work with a client who struggles with grammar and punctuation, my job as the developmental editor isn’t to fix the mistakes. Instead, my role is to point out the problems to make sure the writer is aware of it. I’ll give a few examples of how to make a sentence grammatically correct and point the client toward resources to help with their weaknesses.

First, I recommend purchasing ProWritingAid, a grammar checker and style editor. You can watch my YouTube demo of ProWritingAid here and get my special discount code and bonus offer.

Second, I recommend that these writers visit my friend Ellen Feld at Grammar Lion, the creator/instructor of online grammar refresher courses that have served over 44,000 students. She’s worn a variety of editorial hats, including newspaper reporter and copy chief, personal essayist, website reviewer, writing coach, and developmental editor. Ellen has a master’s degree in writing from the Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the children’s storybook Paragon and Jubilee.

You can find out more about her free grammar resources and paid grammar course below. While copyeditors and proofreaders may always be necessary for some authors, the more you can improve your grammar skills on your own, the better off you’ll be. Some copyeditors charge by the hour, so if you turn in a cleaner manuscript, it will lower your cost. Even if they charge a flat fee, that might be for one round of copyediting. I’ve seen manuscripts so riddled with errors that it would take multiple rounds of copyediting and proofreading to get it ready for publication. If you submit a more polished draft, you can reduce your expenses. Ellen’s courses are a great investment for writers who need to do a deep dive into grammar and punctuation or refresh their skills.

Free Grammar Resources


Grammar lion

Grammar Lion: Comma Mini-Course (Free) – Master the comma and write more effectively starting today with this free mini-course. Don’t let this little punctuation mark slow you down. Stop random comma use and say goodbye to wasting time on comma decisions. In approximately thirty minutes, you’ll know when to say yes to a comma. You’ll also learn when to say no.

Grammar Lion Pretest (Free) – Grammar can be fun when you know the rules! Try the pretest to gauge your grammar know-how. Challenge yourself with thirty-three grammar questions.

Grammar Lion: A Grammar Refresher(Paid) This comprehensive online course will help you navigate the linguistic twists and turns of American English grammar. Take your time and enjoy twelve weeks of learning. I have gone through the course myself, and love how Ellen includes quizzes to assess your skills and determine whether you need to continue reviewing a topic. She gives lots of examples and makes the intimidating world of grammar much easier to navigate.

If you need to review your grammar skills, start with the free comma mini-course and the pretest. You’ll be on your way to mastering grammar and punctuation in no time.

Please note that affiliate links are included in this post, so I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase, however, I’m only an affiliate for products that I recommend.

 

Self-Editing Tips For The Indie Author Podcast Interview @lkhillbooks

Self-Editing Tips For The Indie Author Podcast Interview @lkhillbooks

Self-editing tips

Do you know you need editing, but are worried about how you’re going to afford it? Would you love to do a lot of it yourself, but know you have blinders on when it comes to your own work and that self-editing may not be your strong suit? Never fear! Recently, my friend Liesel Hill interviewed me on The Prolific Author Podcast. The topic was self-editing tips for the indie author. You can also find the interview at the bottom of this post.

I’m an author herself, and as someone who also does a lot of editing for other indie authors and has created a self-editing online course, I have a unique perspective. Give the interview a listen to learn some self-editing tips and find out how you can improve your revision and rewriting skills. You just might save yourself tons of time and expense on editing!

If you haven’t listened to The Prolific Author Podcast before, you’re in for a treat. Liesel is a USA bestselling author and Story Clarity Coach, and her podcast is a wealth of information on everything from story craft to book marketing tips. Here is her description of the podcast:

Do you dream of making your living writing fiction, but don’t know where to start? Believe me, I understand. I worried and struggled over my writing for years, afraid it was cheesy and amateurish, and not TRULY resonating with readers. Meanwhile, at every turn, I was told I couldn’t make money this way. It takes too much time and hard work. It’s not a “real” job. I bet you can relate, right?

Well, I’m gonna let you in on a secret the traditional publishing industry—and let’s face it—most of society at large, don’t want you to know: it’s VERY possible to become a career author. To make your living writing stories full emotion, passion and morality.

With all the upheaval and negativity in our world, people NEED your stories more than ever before. Stories only you can bring to them. I created this podcast to show you how. And I promise it will take less time than you think. So, join the revolution of authors following their passion and changing lives, both their own, and those of their readers. WE…are prolific authors!

Listen to our interview below.

My Latest Interviews: 3 Podcasts To Listen To While Driving

My Latest Interviews: 3 Podcasts To Listen To While Driving

I love guesting on podcasts. It’s always so much fun chatting with the host about topics I love. Below are three recent interviews where I discussed everything from online course creation to writing and editing books to turning my hobby into a business. Check out their past episodes also. These are great podcasts to listen to while driving or working around the house.

The Course Creator’s MBA Podcast

Guesting on this podcast was a thrill for me as I’m such a fan girl. I found the podcast invaluable when I was developing my first online course, and I still listen to it regularly. On this episode, Destini Copp interviewed me about expanding my business from writing and editing books to creating online courses for writers. The episode is part of  a series where Destini chats with course creators about their journey in their online course business, how they got started, the challenges they’ve experienced, and how they overcame them. My signature course, Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, empowers fiction writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money.

Destini and I chatted about how I educated herself on marketing, website development, and sales funnels which has led to success in my online course business.

Undercurrent Stories

I stumbled onto a new podcast favorite in Undercover Stories hosted by Bob Welles. The show explores the interests that people have and seeks to discover more on a wide variety of subjects. Each episode features a guest telling all about their interest, why they do it, and Bob uncovers some fascinating stories in the process.

At some point in their lives many people have thought about writing a book. This desire is sadly often thwarted due to fears about time, commitment, and the technical aspects of editing and publishing. Since I’ve faced all these challenges, I shared with Bob and his listeners how by breaking the writing process into steps, it is possible to both enjoy the creativity of writing and produce a publishable book.

Hustle Like Hannah Podcast

podcasts

I also enjoyed talking with host Hannah Lockwood on another new favorite, the Hustle Like Hannah Podcast, your “how-to” guide and inspiration for turning your creative side into a business opportunity. Hannah, the owner of Hannah Danielle Dance, chats with inspiring people who have turned their creative hobby into a business, sharing their stories and tips to help listeners realize their potential.

Since the second novel in my Storybook Valley chick lit series, Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty, features a dance teacher who dreams of opening her own studio, it was fun talking with Hannah, someone who has accomplished that goal. I shared about my passions for writing and publishing books, editing, and developing online courses for writers, and we discussed my journey toward making those dreams come true.

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