Category Archives: Writing Tips

Fluffing up yourself: scholarships and query letters

Dear Daughter has been working on scholarships recently, which has meant a lot of essays.

“I can’t write about myself,” she wails. “It seems so pompous and uppity.”

Yeah, making yourself look good on paper can feel a bit like you’re patting your own back. The trick is doing it in a way that highlights your accomplishments, passions and future plans without sounding like a one-upper.

How is this possible?

VERBS. Your verb choice is your best friend. Consider a line from one of Dear Daughter’s application.

I got first place at speech subsections.

True, but got isn’t her best option.

Received. A better choice by far, but still doesn’t reference the hard work that went into that First Place win.

Her final version: I earned a First Place medal at speech subsections.

All of those versions mean basically the same thing: she came home from a tournament with a first place. However, the connotations behind them morph her from a passive recipient to a hard-working, motivated medalist.

SPECIFICS. Adding the right details can also go a long way in making you sound like a great candidate without fluffing up your feathers. The simple addition of “medal” in the above statement makes Dear Daughter’s accomplishment feel more robust and prestigious.

CONSISTENCY. Far too often, we write as we speak. This can land us in a world of inconsistent patterns that are not noticeable when talking, but can be extremely distracting on paper. Punctuation and sentence structure while discussing similar ideas or listing activities or skills is super important. A comma here a semi-colon there. Added up, they prove you have no attention to detail–a desirable trait in writers, employees and scholarship recipients. Show your attention to detail by how you present your information, as this is far more impressive than reading the line, “I am detail oriented.”

TASK TALK, NOT BRAGGING RIGHTS. My daughter could easily say, “I’m one of the best students in my class,” or “I’m smart,” or “I rock at speech.” If she used these or similar phrases, she would just as easily turn off every committee considering her for scholarships.

Instead, she–and we–need to focus on what she’s learned or what she’s accomplished. For instance: “I rank in the top ten percent of my class.” Or, “Speech has provided me with strong communication skills as demonstrated by my various medals and honors over the past three years.”

So, while puffing up your chest on paper might feel awkward at first, concentrating on what you did (not who you think you are or want to be) and presenting it in a concise manner will help you remain in the running for top jobs, scholarships and book deals.

What other resume, scholarship or query writing tips do you have to make yourself stand out as a viable candidate, not a bragster?

Curious minds want to know.

I Gained An Hour and a New Writing Resource

I admit to a bit of jealousy. Every two weeks, I’ve been phone conferencing collaborators on a writing project. Every two weeks I get the glowing report of warm California days and milder Virginia weather. My Minnesotan toes go cold just hearing about their sinful temps.

After all, it’s hard to brag when area schools are closing down due to dangerous wind chills and events are being postponed to allow blizzards to move through.

However, a bit of research this morning made me one happy writer. Because our project is set in a different state, I have been gathering as much info about my setting as possible. Temps. Cost of living. Demographics concerning religion, ethnicity and education. What’s the geography in NE Missouri? Yeah, that’s right. Missouri.

I know what you’re thinking: it doesn’t make a lot of sense for people living in Sunny California, Historic Virginia or Rural Minnesota to place a main character dead center between them. But we did. And so research, I must.

In doing so, I found the most amazing website for writers. Maybe I live in a hole and timeanddate.com is as well-known as a keyboard to most of you, but for me, the wealth of info found there instantly relegated the website to my faves.

If you’ve not seen it, heard of it or used it, I suggest you check it out. At least if you’re writing about–or traveling to–a place far, far away from where you eat, breathe and live. It will put things like sunset into perspective.

Because of timeanddate.com, the green glow of jealousy has receded slightly. After all, I discovered that I have far more summer to enjoy than my California counterparts.

The sun sets on those poor souls at 8:08pm. I, on the other hand, get to bask in daylight until 9:12, thus relishing one hour and twenty-four seconds more sun on June 21st than they.

Somehow, I picture myself relaxing in my poolside garden, surrounded by my family and sipping a cocktail as I bank those precious moments against forty below wind chills and 4:53 winter sunsets.

What would you do with an extra hour? What other  resources are must faves for penning settings outside your traditional stomping grounds?

Curious minds want to know.

Writing Wednesday: In which I’m blind, stubborn or stupid!

Okay, so the revelation that I’m likely the World’s Least Observant Human Being isn’t new. If I don’t wave to you when our cars meet on the road it isn’t because I’m a snob. It’s because I don’t see you. I won’t notice your new haircut–sometimes even if you chopped off twenty-seven inches and dyed it bright pink–and don’t ask me what my kids are wearing. Heck, I don’t know what I’m wearing unless I look down to check. (Striped jammies and a fleece, for the record.)

I’m not being rude.

Sadly, however, this trait plagues me in my writing. Two separate editors in the past two weeks have begged for more description in my manuscripts. And they’re not the first ones.

  • “Give me more detail.”
  • “What does the room look like?”
  • “I don’t quite see the garden.”

I suppose this recurring mantra means I’m simply stubborn in that I refuse to accommodate the continued request for more. Except that I do try. I actually do. And when I complete a  new manuscript, I’m like, “Hey, compared to what I usually write, this stuff is drowning in visual detail.”

Inevitably, however, I hear the same-old, same-old. “What does this look like?”

To which my soul screams, “I don’t know what your imagination is showing you, but my imaginary garden is filled with bright bursts of orange, yellow and red. I mean, I said ‘the garden was abloom’, isn’t that good enough?”

As a writer, I don’t care if your garden matches mine. Feel free to plant as much pink as you want. Add a tree or two if necessary and a statue of a frog in a hammock or those crazy little fisher people with no pond under their rods. I honestly don’t care how my readers fill in the blanks, because if a detail is important, I’ll add it. If I need you to know that there’s a tree in the garden, I’ll tell you. And then you can color the leaves in to be a maple, a linden, an elm, oak, cottonwood, pine–whatever your imagination desires.

“Uhm, yeah, not good enough.” Or so I’ve heard.

Which means, maybe I am stupid. Maybe I’m incapable of understanding that everyone else doesn’t fill in the blanks as readily as I do. Or that readers like to be led to an amazing discovery step by step, flower by flower and tree by tree.

Blind, stubborn or stupid? Or maybe a bit of all three!

What writing issues plague you? What do your betas typically comment on when reading your manuscripts? And how do you fix these issues the first time around?

Curious minds want to know.

P.S. I do go back in and add detail. Just not too much. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to start skipping passages!

 

 

Optimizing the Query Process with Fewer Mistakes

Eldest leaves for college tomorrow. We–or should I say, I?–have a ton of checklists to keep us on track. And yet, I’m not overly concerned because a giant Walmart lives four blocks from his dorm and he’s only 45 minutes from home. Even if he forgets his tennis shoes, he or we can easily make the trek–on a weeknight if need be–to get them returned to their rightful owner in a timely manner.

And yet, after years of writing, I can’t help but check my lists to make sure we do this thing right the first time.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard exasperated, frustrated or terrified cries of, “Oh for the love of all that’s holy, guess what stupid query thing I did now?”

Yep, more than I can count.

So I thought it would behoove us all to remember that move-in day isn’t the time to first start thinking of how to make a smooth transition. Rather, we need to bear certain things in mind long before we show up at the dorm room with only  Doritos, goldfish and pony keg in hand.

The first and only truth of querying is that first time queriers are often impulsive. We’ve worked hard to polish our manuscripts. We’ve researched agents and have A, B and Z lists. We’ve even had our query letter beta-ed, line edited and tweaked to near-Godliness. We’re ready to go.

And so we forget things like our names or the agent’s name. We attach the wrong file or send blanket queries to a thousand and one agents–only to realize we never changed the agent’s name, so Agent Awesome, Super Agent and Agent Incredible all received a query addressed to Dear Mr. Agent.

We hang our heads in shame, climb back into the closet and vow never to query again–or at least not until our pain subsides and we can once again look ourselves in the mirror.

To help curb those last-minute mistakes, keep a checklist close at hand. Because nothing is worse than showing up for the main event ill-prepared. This list can be used for agent or editor submissions, though I use the term agent almost exclusively.

LAST MINUTE CHECKLIST

  • Start by sending only one query at a time, and start each query new. It’s easy to forget that each agent might want a little something different.
  • Go through the checklist with each new query. Until querying becomes second nature, it’s important that you pay close attention to each detail with each new query. Fast fact, the mistakes we make generally occur when we send batches at a time.
  • Check to make sure your agent information is current. Even if you compiled your list two weeks ago, things do change. In fact, agent/editor shuffling might be the only thing in the publishing arena that moves quickly–at least from our point of view–and it does us no good to shoot an email to Uber Agent when he’s been replaced by Agent Incredible.
  • Check the spelling of the agent’s name (and address if snailing it). Nobody likes having her name misspelled and it leaves a bad first impression. In fact, some agents get quite jaded about it over the years. Not that I blame them, as nothing irritates me more than telemarketers massacring my name. Now multiply that by 100 times per day and you’ll understand the importance of getting it right.
  • If you are sending a different query/submission package to each individual agent, double-check the guidelines of the agency and make sure they match the query you are sending. Agents get good at sniffing out blanket submissions. Especially when a query tailored to someone else finds its way into their inboxes.
  • Imbed, paste, attach or collate hard copy sample pages only after you’ve checked and double checked your guidelines. Yes, some agencies still require snail mail submissions and it’s just as important to send the right info to them as it is to e-agents.
  • SASE if snailing it and the agency requires it. The self-addressed stamped envelope is sent so agents can respond with ease. In fact, many agents will leave you hanging forever and ever amen if you don’t provide one for them.
  • If submitting by snail, sign your name. You laugh, but don’t. This is a frequent mistake.
  • Now hit send or hike it down to the post office. Just make sure you have enough postage or your precious letter will never make it to your intended destination.

One of the things I do when researching my agents is create a graph that tells me step by step what to do. It makes it easy to know who gets what, when and how. For example:

  1. Agent Awesome
  2. Address/Agency Info (for snail) or Web Address and email for e-queries
  3. Submission Guidelines (query, query and synopsis, query and 10pp, etc…)
  4. Special Notes (such as attachment directions, credential requests, request for clips, etc…)
  5. Simultaneous or Exclusive Submissions and SASE requests
  6. Time Frame on when to hear back (if this info has been imparted in guidelines)

By combining both lists, I’ve kept my mistakes to a bare minimum. Just like I hope I can do with Eldest tomorrow.

What query/submission mistakes have you made? If you know the outcome of making such a mistake, please share it with us, so we can learn. What things have I forgotten?

Curious minds want to know.

Are You a Chubby Writer?

I’m both lucky and unlucky enough to sleep with my work out partner. Lucky because he motivates me when I would otherwise stay in bed–it’s damn hard to roll over and put the pillow over your head when your hubby is strapping on his tennies. And unlucky because it’s damn hard to roll over when he’s strapping on his tennies.

Hopefully, his 5:20am habit will help keep writer’s spread from over-taking my chair (especially since I usually write from the couch, and not one of those little love-seats either). But what about the other kind of spread?

The bloated, chubby kind of writing that gets in the way of good storytelling?

Sadly, that’s something I have to do on my own. Well, on my own with the help of crit partners and Word’s Find button.

What makes chubby writing? Obviously words that are very over-used and so very often unnecessary. Yeah, the adverbs and adjectives. The dreaded “that”, “just”, “but” and “so”–to name a few.

Those go without saying. You can read blog post after blog post after book after article on those no-no’s.

What I’m talking about today are echoes. Word echoes and idea echoes. Beating your reader to death with redundant writing.

These things will give a reader gas any day. They bog down a story quicker than a Thanksgiving meal and have readers settling into the couch for a quick snooze.

While some echoes are purposeful and written to pack a punch, the majority of them I see (even in my own writing) are simply overlooked or unnoticed by the writer.

Your Task

  • Try really hard not to use the same word twice in one sentence.
  • Try really hard not to use the same word or phrase twice in one paragraph.
  • Heck, try really hard not to do the above in one page.

This can be a daunting task–like sleeping with your work out partner–and exhaustive when replacing common words with alternatives. But trust me, it is well worth the effort.

Common problems areas:

  • body part descriptions–hands, fingers, necks, etc…. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what a couple is doing and forget how boring it is to read of hands clasping hands touching hands.
  • room descriptions–doors, doorknobs, floors, steps, etc… “The front door was yellow. I walked up the steps to the door and knocked on it. The doorknob felt cool to the touch. The door swung open unexpectedly.” Kill me with a door knocker to the noggin already!
  • pet names. I know one Real Life Dude who calls everyone Dear. Every stinking time he starts a new sentence. I want to stab him with a spork. BEWARE the pet name trap. Make it mean something. Make sure only one person uses the same pet name. Make sure there are no sporks in your manuscript or your character will die an untimely death. I promise.

Now, for the far more difficult part of echoes: ideas.

What the heck is an idea echo, you might ask. It’s the repetition of information. It’s the consistent badgering or nagging. It’s beating your sleeping work out partner with your tennis shoe while shouting at her to get up because *hello* it’s time to work out.

Readers are smarter than we give them credit for and most of them are on a diet of slim books. They have an uncanny knack of understanding the idea the first time around and not needing us to shove a turkey leg down their throats before they get it.

When do writers get caught up in idea echoes?

  • romance novels: the internal debate of should I or shouldn’t I? The cure: show this debate through action.
  • mysteries: cutesy phrases that “cue” the reader to something important, that not-so-subtle foreshadowing of “I didn’t know when I picked it up how important it would be.” Ugh. Just let it be important and let your reader discover it along with the MC.
  • When don’t we?

Any idea that seems important to us as writers can become an echo idea for our readers. We want so badly to impart our information or make our readers see what we see and feel what we feel that we are compelled to TELL them about it. Over and over again.

Instead, we need to allow our readers to experience the events of the novel in their own way and trust that we’ve left a logical trail for them to reach their own conclusions.

So, if your manuscript feels bloated in terms of content or word count, strap on your editing shoes and check out your echoes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly careful cultivation of these words, phrases and ideas will slim down your writing and make for a better read.

Are you a chubby writer? If so, how do you check for echoes in your work, and how do you eliminate them? How do you recognize your idea echoes and what tips do you have for changing them?

Curious minds want to know.

Don’t Assume Anything: Ask Everything

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting with my little sister over lunch. We made our way to Dear Daughter’s must-visit eatery: Buffalo Wild Wings. Ordering was easy, as our tastes run so similar.

Getting the right order was not.

Instead of receiving traditional wings, our waitress had brought us boneless. In our mind, all parties were to blame. We never specified which type of wings we wanted, nor did the waitress ask.

We all just assumed: us because we only eat traditional, and she because the boneless were on sale.

An honest mix-up that was quickly remedied.

Yet, not all assumptions are as easily taken care of. In writing, assumptions can get us in a boat load of trouble.

  • Never assume you know something as fact. Ever. Remember how people used to believe the world was flat? They assumed, and they were wrong. When I write, I check and double-check even simple things like how many kids play on a baseball team. I don’t want to lose readers because I didn’t have my facts straight and therefore lost all credibility with them.
  • Never assume you know what a crit partner meant by a comment–especially those that sting. If appropriate, ask for clarification, particularly before doing a rewrite based on the comment.
  • Never assume you know what an agent or editor meant on something that seems a little fuzzy. Agents don’t bite. Well, some might, but I hear rabies’ shots are required for the higher-ups in the publishing biz. It’s okay to shoot off a quick email as long as you do so appropriately.
  • Never assume all agents and editors are the same.
  • Never assume submission guidelines are the same across the board for all houses.
  • Never assume that a rejection means you’re a crappy writer.
  • Never assume that selling a book means you can quit your day job.
  • Never assume you know anything, let alone everything, about the world of writing.

Instead, check things out. Ask around. Read yourself sick on the topics you write about. Become besties with professionals who know what they know and can make your writing accurate.

And probably the biggest and best advice I can give: research your options and topics from all sides, not just from the POV you want to be true.

On our way home from lunch with Little Sister, DD and I talked religion. She finds it infinitely intriguing that (in her experience) people who don’t believe in God are more well-versed in the Bible than the people who live their religion on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of truth in her observation. Those who cut their teeth on Faith typically assume what they’ve heard in church and in their homes is correct. Those who were never immersed in it as a way of life will often seek to find the truth behind the Faith.  They actually dig into the nitty-gritty of it all. They ask questions and challenge the answers. They research all points of view and probably have a more well-rounded understanding of religion as a whole than those who have never read outside their Faith teachings.

We can learn a lot from this method of asking, not assuming. We have a better chance at succeeding in the publishing biz if we research our options and make informed decisions.

In what ways have your assumptions been challenged as you’ve walked your writing (or life) path? What things did you really know and which assumptions were proven faulty? How has this changed the way you’ve approached your writing/publishing (daily living) endeavors?

Curious minds want to know.  And if you’re still curious, you can check out my post on From the Write Angle regarding bios and bylines.

 

Pick Your Friends, Your Nose & Your Agent/Editor

This past weekend, we had the pleasure to attend our God Daughter’s confirmation.  Close family friends since the summer Dear Hubby and I got married, we adults have been through the births, baptisms and first birthdays of a total of seven kids.  Their oldest graduated three years ago.  Ours does in three weeks.

We’ve been blessed to have had such a wonderful and unfaltering friendship between our two families.  In fact, our collective kids consider each other cousins.  In this respect, we’ve proven the old adage wrong–you can pick your family.

Another myth I’d like to dispel is that writer’s can’t pick their agents, editors or publishers.  I believe we writers can become so starved to see our writing validated that we send queries or submission packages out to any and every breathing professional in the publishing industry.  We don’t consider the long-term impact of accepting offers from less than stellar representatives in the writing arena.

Due diligence, my friends.

Our quasi family has the same morals and values as we have.  They value family and faith.  They respect their children and have strong relationships with them.  They are kind and compassionate, honest and filled with integrity.  They’re fun-loving and generous.  They are the kind of people I’d choose for family.

Similarly, this kind of compatibility is possible within the publishing industry if we choose to do the work.  We must research our options, talk with agents and editors before signing with them and discuss future goals to make sure we’re all on the same page.

CAT’S GUIDE TO PICKING YOUR PUBLISHING PROFESSIONAL

  • KNOW YOUR NEEDS: Create a list of what you want and need from your professional.  Promotion, editing, submitting, validation, publishing, Best Seller sales…the list is endless, and specific to each writer.  Know what YOU need and want and why.  It may be vastly different than the writer in the next computer over.  And that’s a good thing.
  • RESEARCH: Sales, clients, policies.  Dig deep to find out what peeps are really saying.  And what they aren’t saying.  Go beyond Google and don’t be afraid of what you might find.  If you find yourself reluctant to read the dirt, then you’re not ready to pick your professional.  You need to KNOW what you need to know.
  • MATCH YOUR NEEDS TO YOUR RESEARCH: It is completely irrelevant what everyone else is doing and who they’re doing it with.  What’s important is how your professional fits with your needs and desires.  These things should fit together like puzzle pieces.

Once you figure out who you want and why, you can begin courting your professional.  Make your contacts meaningful.  Be a professional yourself.  Work harder and smarter to build a relationship with your chosen few.

What’s important to you in a publishing professional?  How do you research your prospective professionals?  How do you court them, and have you been successful in your endeavors to pick your professional?

Curious minds want to know.

Does your writing look like dreamsicle vomit?

After five years and five thousand fingerprint smudges, we repainted our entire upstairs.  Initially, DH was less than thrilled with my choices–particularly the hall bathroom.

“It looks like a dreamsicle threw up in here.”

He was right and I doubted my pick, even though I never told him that.  “You’ll see.  As soon as I get the rugs in and the pictures up and, and, and, it will be fine,” I said with fingers crossed and wishy-washy words falling from my lips.

Well, the rugs aren’t down yet and we have yet to replace the vanity light and sconce to match the chocolate-brown accents, but…

…last night DH approved.

“I just couldn’t see it until it was all put together.”

And that, my writer friends, is exactly why we need to spit-shine our submissions before sending them off to agents and editors or self-publishing them.

We must always, always send our very best.  It must not be the shell of an idea, stripped down to the paint on the wall.  Our manuscripts must be complete and compelling.  Touched up and accessorized perfectly to bring out the visions in our heads.

Only then can a reader appreciate what could be.  Because, until then, all they will see is a work in progress–a look that can be very ugly indeed.

Cat’s Guide to Avoiding Manuscript Vomit 

* If you feel compelled to send a different section of your manuscript than what is traditionally asked for, you’re not ready to query.

* If you “just finished writing my first novel”, you’re not ready for anything but a long break and a serious revision.

* If you made substantial changes to your manuscript during your last read-through, you’re not ready to unleash your writing on the reading public.

* If you feel as if replacing the faucet and countertop will make everything perfect, you must stop somewhere because you can’t afford a major remodel.  Which is the great thing about writing.  Every revision is free.  All it takes is time and dedication.

So, don’t sell yourself short by sending out a half-finished product.  Instead, take the time you need to satisfy your Inner Editor.  Listen to and learn all you can about the writing business.  I know you want your novel in the hands of readers right now.  So do I.  But, showing our babies to the world before they are truly ready will only garner rejections, negative reviews and heartbreak.

And the last thing we want to hear about our manuscripts is that they look like a hodge-podge of ideas and characters vomited onto the page.

So, go forth and remodel.  You have my permission.

Painting Characters with Voice and Personality

While preparing for Eldest’s graduation, we’re painting over the fingerprints, shoe scuffs and general grime that accumulates over the years.  Picking out colors isn’t always easy to do.  Colors deepen and change as the bright morning light falls into the  shadows of night, and not all the colors we love look good when painted side by side.

We paint our walls to evoke emotional satisfaction.  The laundry room is bright and cheerful or subtle and soothing–a nod to the torturous chore of washing clothes and a firm attempt to cheer the laundry person up.  Bedrooms induce sleep.  Kitchens sparkle.  Living rooms wrap around us like a cocoon, making us feel at home.

As writers, we paint our characters in the same way.  We provide them with a personality and a voice.  We paint them soothing or sensitive or joyous or angry.  We give them distinct colors to portray an individual that readers can love or hate, root for or fear, cry over or rejoice in their demise.  In essence, we paint an emotional connection between our characters and our audiences.

And like a freshly painted room, we need to accessorize to create robust, multifaceted characters.  A red hand towel in an earth tone bathroom to energize us.  Flowing curtains in a boldly painted room to highlight the softer side of life.  A jock who listens to classical music, or a religious police officer who turns to God and not the stereotypical bottle.

All this while keeping in mind that colors change and deepen as the day goes on.  All this while keeping in mind that characters deepen and change as the novel goes on.

What kind of painter are you, deliberate or impulsive?  How do you consciously paint characters with distinct voices and personalities?  How do you show the deepening of characterization as your novel progresses? 

Think about your current manuscript’s MC: what color is s/he?  Was this purposeful on  your behalf?  If you added a splash of color, what would it be and why?  If your MC is rainbow-colored, does s/he feel chaotic?  Can you tone her/him down?  Should you?

Curious minds want to know.

 

KISS Method for Kid Lit: Keep it simple, Scribe.

In honor of spring, Dear Daughter baked a new batch of cupcakes.  Unlike her Christmas polar bears and her Halloween rats, DD’s beautiful bouquet was unnervingly simple.  She completed the entire dozen flowers in the time it took her to decorate one rodent.

Simple, yet elegant.  Elaborate, yet easy.

This KISS method is exactly what children’s writers need to keep in mind when penning tales for young readers.

Up until about fifth grade, kids are learning to read.  Once they hit middle school, they read to learn.  As writers for young children, we need to fulfill all the requirements of a great storytelling, while keeping the writing itself simple enough for high comprehension.

KISS: Keep it simple, Scribe.

CAT’S KISS METHOD

  • K is for KEEPING: While short on words, writers need to keep all the key components of a great story–robust characters, engaging plot lines and a resolution to conflict.  This often translates into fewer characters for kids to get to know and keep straight.  It also means a simpler story arc with fewer subplots.
  • I is for INTEREST: Young minds need to stay engaged.  As writers, we can do this by tapping into a child’s natural creativity and imagination.  The details we provide must be selective–just enough to provide a solid background, but not so much that kids can’t fill in the blanks themselves.  Pick one adjective to describe the dog instead of four.  Use strong verbs that show emotion and physical movement rather than resorting to an entire paragraph of telling.  In other words, declutter manuscripts by omitting extra words and use only those that initiate thinking on the reader’s behalf.
  • S is for SHORT: Short sentences help beginning and struggling readers keep facts straight.  Remember, youngsters are still learning to read fluently at this age.  The front half of long sentences can easily be forgotten by the time kids reach the punctuation at the end.  Shoot for an average of roughly ten words per sentence for young readers.  This is easily done if details are kept to a minimum and strong verbs are used.
  • S is for SOUND: In the early elementary years, children read out loud.  Even in the next stage, kids “hear” the words in their minds as they read to themselves.  Odd phrasing literally sounds funny, while redundant sentences–subject, predicate, subject, predicate–sound choppy.  Stilted dialogue doesn’t roll off the tongue and quickly becomes tiresome.  By varying sentence structure and length, using simple conjunctions and maximizing the robust English language, writers can pen engaging sentences that flow.

Young readers, more than any other age group, deserve great storytelling.  This key time in their lives often determines if they will turn to books or some other activity to fulfill their entertainment needs.  Boring, formulaic writing doesn’t engage busy minds.  Likewise, elaborate writing that is hard to decipher can turn a young reader away from books altogether.

Books for kids must appear elaborate, while maintaining enough simplicity that readers can stay engaged without struggling.

Who are some of your favorite kid authors (chapter book, young MG)?  What do you like about the way they write?  Are their books easy to read on a basic level? 
Curious  minds want to know.