Tag Archives: juvenile literature

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.

Flashback Friday: Paper Fortune Tellers

This morning I took a trip down memory lane and landed firmly in elementary school.  My boys asked me to “make one of those things you do this to” and mimed what looked like a nestful of baby birds opening their mouths to be fed.

Aaahhh yes, paper fortune tellers.

Pick a color.

P-U-R-P-L-E

Another one.

Well, you remember.  Right?  I mean, who didn’t use these to get a glimpse into their futures?  I once married Oliver, lived in a cardboard box and drove a unicycle.  I also had something like 14 kids.

Thank God those little buggers were wrong, because I”m quite sure we wouldn’t all fit on the unicycle.

Yet, they obviously had a profound impact on me.  My betrothal to Oliver came back full force as I diligently folded my square into ever smaller triangles.  Turns out making them is like riding a bike.  Once that first crease was made, my fingers flew across the page on their own volition.  And I haven’t made one in about–brace yourself–3o years.

But the feeling of giddiness was still there.  Once again, I stood on the playground in a gaggle of girls, furtively glancing toward the pack of boys circling like wolves.  Of course, that was half the delight.  Letting them hear our squeals and moans as our futures unfolded.  And later, opening a fortune-teller to discover that Daniel had scratched out everyone else’s name and scribbled his in all eight squares.  I guess polygamy was alive and well back then.

These memories–the ones that ring so true we can physically slip back into time–are what writers of juvenile lit need to pull from.  Only then can we deliver an honest novel with honest characters.

So what about you?  How did you and your friends tell the future?  Did any of your fortunes come true? 

Curious minds want to know!

Writing Conundrum

It seems fitting that my blog should usher out the old and welcome the new. 

Not only was yesterday the last day of the month, but it was the last day of my favorite month.  Alas, midnight saw the end of  NaNoWriMo.  For those just joining me, that is the 30 days when writers of all ilks try their hand at penning a 50,000word novel. 

This morning I sat at the counter with my steaming mug of vanilla hazlenut and grinned like a coffee addict in Starbucks.  I had accomplished two great things: finishing my novel–complete with the words “the end”–and surpassing the the 50k word minimum.  At night’s end, I clocked in at just over 60,000words. 

Dear Hubby provided the appropriate praise, then asked, “So now what are you going to do with your time?”

Out with the old, in with the new.

In terms of writing, I will go back to the manuscripts I have edited to a thin inch.  They have sat in their dark manila envelopes waiting for the moment to wow me again.  After the rush of NaNo, I should be able to look at them with a fresh perspective. 

In terms of my life, I shall work on giving my house a much-needed facelift.  My NaNoBuddies laugh at me because my closets are always in need of a good reorganization.  We have confirmation coming up in a few months and I shall be prepared.  Okay, I might be lying about that, as I seem to thrive on procrastination and last-minute deadlines, but a girl can always dream…

Professionally, I have some tough choices to make.  Lately the discussion around the house has been, “So, what does a writer make?”  “So, what types of things can you do as a writer?”

Juvenile fiction will be my reigning triumph as a writer.  However, there is still a solid market out there for freelance writing.  Columns, articles, projects, etc….  If one is hungry enough. 

I’m beginning to feel the pangs. 

I love writing.  All kinds of writing.  So why do I have such a narrow focus on reaching my goals?  Does freelancing diminish my dreams of writing juvenile fiction, or will it enhance them?  The question definitely deserves serious consideration.

In a recent article I read by an editor, but didn’t retain pertinent info in my gray matter for a proper quote, said something like this: don’t dismiss outside markets as a way to break in. 

In the world of technology our words can be found everywhere.  Blogs, comments, chats, tweets, ezines, websites….  The list is endless.  The opportunities are limitless. 

I am thrilled to have finished another manuscript–my first totally completed, very rough draft of a Young Adult novel.   It can join the stable of manuscripts in various stages of polishing while I work on my game plan. 

From now on, my literary year shall begin on December 1st.  Finishing a major writing project seems like the perfect time to start anew.

~cat