Monday, September 14, 2009

Mini Workshop for Children’s Book Writer's

When writing children's books there are about ten questions, one needs ask oneself.  “Will my book sell?” is not the first question to ask.  The action, characters, and place are what fascinate children.     

1.  Is it a good story?  Does it have a positive flow? Is there a hero or heroine that saves the day?  Can the child see himself or herself as the hero or the heroin?

2.  Does the story strong enough to stand up to the competition in the field of children's books?  It is a tough market and one must know if their story is well written and ready for submission.

3.  Does the story make sense even if it is read slowly?  I know this may seem an odd question, but adults read slowly to young children.  Young children, beginning readers especially, read slowly.  If the story is too complicated, it may not be a good candidate.

4.  Is the story a page-turner?  Dialog should carry the action forward as opposed to stopping the action.  Children like dialog between characters and usually place themselves in the story if they can picture themselves saying what the character is saying.

5.  Is the setting of the story in a world children are familiar with?  Parks, the zoo, and magical lands of make believe are places children know about first hand.  Good use of adjectives and adverbs help readers see and be a part of the action in the story making connections.

6.  Are the events in the story something children can relate to?  Put yourself in a child's shoes.  Is it an event that a child might participate in?

7.  Are the characters appealing and original?  Shamu is already a character of a whale.  Roger the Right Whale is a new character in my next children's book.  He and his buddies are headed back to the cold waters off of Saint John's in Newfoundland after their exciting adventure south.

8.  Is the vocabulary suitable for the young beginning reader?  Read other children's books to get any idea of what is acceptable.

9.  Is there rhythm and repetition alliteration in the story?  Children like language that rolls of their tongues and so do adults that read to them.

10.  Is the story humorous?  Children love to laugh.  Give them the giggles and you will have made a friend for life.

Will my book sell?  If you can answer the questions listed above, it is a possibility that your book will sell.  Keep writing.  Keep submitting.  Look at what is working.  Look at what is not working.  Edit, review, and resubmit.  

Write me if this post has been helpful to you.  If you are published, I would like to know.  Just go to the comment section or my profile and drop me a note.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bringing the Background into the Foreground

Recently, in a writer’s magazine, I spotted an article on bringing the background into the foreground.  It spoke to enticing ones readers with details that will make them want to keep reading.  Readers by nature are curious creatures and like to get involved in a story easily.  Bringing a reader into a story by creating a background that they can identify with will help them develop empathy for a character or characters more quickly.

Creating a bond between reader and character occurs when a writer reveals interesting tidbits about the character or characters including the background up front.  I think, especially, in specific genres like science fiction and mystery that developing a background that readers can see the character in allows them to identify more quickly with the character and moves the story at a faster pace. 

Just be sure the ending is as well developed and fast paced as the beginning of the story or your readers just may remember that the next time they go pick up your book and hesitate.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Editing and Proofreading

I am bringing up the subjects of 'Editing' and 'Proofreading' now because they reference 'Mechanics', 'Punctuation', and 'Spelling,' the topics listed next in the book, The MacMillan Handbook of English.

Editing and proofreading are two different processes even though some items within the processes overlap.  When one sits down to edit one looks at the overall structure, clarity, style and citations. In proofreading one looks at the overall structure including grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and spelling.

Why is this important? As a writer you work hard to produce a piece of work that you hope will inform or entertain your audience. Moreover, for a reader there is nothing more irritating as a spelling error that occurs repeatedly throughout a piece of work and ruins it. Case in point, Rhet Butler's People, by Donald McCaig had so many common errors in grammar and spelling it was distracting to reading the book.  Great book! Nevertheless, the publisher failed to correct a couple of spelling errors that irritated everyone who read the book.  I hope someone sent the editor a 'red line' copy of the book with corrections.

Editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand focus and concentration and employ different techniques within each process. But, before you begin editing or proofreading get some distance between what you have just finished writing and the next step in the revision process.  It is far too easy to skip along and miss a mistake or two because you know in your head what you have wrote, yet may have written it down incorrectly.  Let the piece of work cool for a while and it will make it easier to catch errors with a fresh eye.

When you begin to edit or proofread, you may what to change the place you normally sit at to a well light area with a solid surface to work on. You may also what to find a quiet place where you can focus. Change the look of the document.  Print it out in a different color, change the font size, and/or spacing. If it is a long piece of work break it up into short pieces for revision so your attention to detail does not wane.


When editing for content you may want to ask yourself the following questions:  Have I completed all of the requirements of the assignment? Are the claims I state accurate?  Do I have enough support for each claim?  Is all the material in my work relevant to the assignment?

Is the overall structure of my work complete?  Do I have a good introduction and conclusion?  In the body of my work, have arranged things logically? Do I have enough documented support for each claim?

Listen for clarity.  Read your piece aloud.  Does it read easily?  Be sure it does not sound like you got every word from a thesaurus.

In the style of your writing, be sure of the tone of voice given to the piece. Is the structure of your sentences varied between long and short?  Watch for repeated phasing, like "there is," "there are," and "due to the fact."


When sitting down to proofread do not rely entirely on a spell checker or a grammar checker. These tools are far from foolproof and have limited dictionaries or abilities to spot all errors.

Read slowly, and read every word aloud.  When you read silently, you tend to skip over mistakes or make unconscious corrections.

Use a ruler or blank piece of paper to aide you in looking at each sentence. Make proofreading marks as you go.  Have a proofreading reference nearby until you develop a method for finding errors and making corrections.

Editing and proofreading are vital to the process of revision. Revision is a part of the process of writing.  A part of being a very good writer includes working on the mechanics. When you continually strive for excellence the quality of you, work improves and who knows where that will lead you some day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grammar Usage

"I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences." 
— Gertrude Stein  

Correct grammar usage is of vital importance in communicating clearly.  In this day and age of quick messaging we need to be crystal clear in what we are saying and how we use it is key.  Logical completeness, clearness and order, and the word choices we make, matter in the effectiveness of what we communicate.

I know I am among those who believe in practice makes perfect.  'Diagramming Sentence Structure' was one of my favorite activities in my high school English class. I still love the exercise to this day.  What does diagramming teach us besides sentence structure?  It teaches us analytical techniques.  Here is a quote from Investor's Business Daily, October 17, 2000 by Joseph R. Mallon Jr.:
When Joseph R. Mallon Jr. bumps up against a complex problem, he thinks back to a lesson he learned in high school from the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
The Philadelphia-area school's Catholic nuns taught him the art of diagramming a sentence. Once all the parts of speech lined up, Mallon pulled clarity from the chaos. It is a process he uses today to tackle tough issues as chief executive and chairperson of Measurement Specialties Inc.

"I sit down quietly.  Take the issue apart into its component parts.  I make sure all the components fit together well. They have to be well chosen, fit together and make sense.  There are few (business) problems that can't be solved that way, as dire as it might seem," Mallon said. "Sentence diagramming is one of the best analytical techniques I ever learned."

Understanding how the sentence fits together makes the communication even more clearly in its meaning.  Structure aids in effectively communicating our ideas and thoughts.   Grammar is the foundation.  Mechanics, Punctuation, and Spelling are parts in the framework of effective communication.

I found these links informative and useful in my hunt for learning more about grammar, I hope you find them useful, too.

Good Daily Grammar Sites

Informative & Practice Grammar sites

Superb Grammar Checker Site

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Writing Handbook

I love old book sales.  The treasures one finds at an old book sale have unique value.  A first edition can be worth a lot of 'denary.'  A work of fiction can be a very scary find.  A non -fiction work may have useful information that can help one tackle a handyman chore about the house.

The Macmillan Handbook of English can help a writer work on grammar, mechanics, punctuation, spelling, words, logical completeness, clearness and order, effectiveness, the paragraph, and last but not least style.  I have a first edition Macmillan Handbook of English from 1939.  It was written by John M. Kierzek, a professor of English at the State College of Oregon, and published by the Macmillan Company of New York.  It a great treasure because of the way it was written.  It is both a textbook and a reference book with an index organized around seventy-seven rules for writing and a theme-correction chart.  Both teacher and student can easily find a point of reference to work from.

The author, John M. Kierzek, focuses on treating the learner as a mature person.  Encouraging the writer to be self-disciplined and diligent in understanding the rules knowing there is freedom beyond the rules.  Only after fully comprehending and then interpreting these guidelines with discretion, apply them to the discipline of his or her writing one can bloom professionally as a writer.

Reading and writing are connected disciplines.  I have a passion to learn more about both.  I am concerned as a teacher about how, what is being taught, and what is being neglected.  I have often seen students pass a short answer test but not be able to apply the knowledge of what they have allegedly learned to a real life application.

Then again, the world is all about 'texting' and 'tweeting' these days.  Short bursts of information that communicates a snapshot of things that sometimes are bigger than a snapshot. Full disclosure and depth of comprehension have become outdated.  With all the banter true comprehension of the context is being skewed.  

Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use print and written materials associated with varying contexts or streams of thought clearly.  We are losing depth in our communication.  Perception is in constant flux.  Change is instantaneous.  Change is good, but too much change, too fast is leaving us lost in the middle of chaos.  Barring are points that keep the boat sailing in a true direction.  What heading are we traveling in?

If you are like me and want to improve your writing style, you may have to work on some skills and/or templates, frames of writing.  Grammar is listed first in the book, so grammar is the first subject I will write about tomorrow.

Writing Practice

With a new month, come new goals.  This September I am focusing on writing.  There is so much out there about writing that it is hard to know what to read first.  I have been researching and I have found some excellent sites and a few other writers who are working on their ‘style of writing.'  Each writer has a 'way' or 'style' of writing that can change and grow over time.

From time to time, I will share projects, links, and writer's ideas that are helpful to me and that I hope will help you.  Even if you are not a professional writer, I am hoping it will challenge you to think about your literacy skills.  We all can work on interpersonal communications, vocabulary, as well as, professional proficiency.

Since this is a blog, I think it is best to list a few reasons why blogging is such a great tool for writing.  Here is short list of reasons writers should blog:

1.  Practice writing to become a better writer, one needs to write daily.

2.  Build a writing portfolio.  When asked to show your work over time, a blog is a good record of ones over all work.

3. Experience in publishing.  Self-publishing will give you an understanding and appreciation of being an editor.

4.  Earning money.  Companies will pay you for advertising on your blog.

5.  A workshop for writers.  Writers from all over can get together and hold a workshop.

6.  Immediate feedback from others.  Feedback is valuable and instant when blogging.

7.  Build a reading audience.  When it comes time to sell a published piece of work, you have an audience already interested in your work.

If you are a writer, I would like to connect with you.  Contact me at or