Saturday, November 30, 2019

Secrets of Writing for Children










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MASTERING RHYME
and METER.

by Dori Chaconas

"To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme" -
In the archives of SmartWriters Journal
+
+ "Icing on the Cake" - on Dori's Website.

*These two articles are the perfect lessons on
 how to write stories in rhyme and meter.

If you want to learn the secrets of writing rhyming picture books, read these two amazing articles by Dori Chaconas. Dori nails the subject. Her clear, precise information and instructive examples, make it seem easy. If you long to write great rhyme, studying and absorbing the wisdom in these two articles is for you.


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Visit Margot's 
"CONTENT" EDITING Page.
for HELP and ADVICE.




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SELF EDITING TIP SHEET

Use your "Find" application
to track down the troublesome words below.

DOWN: If the verb implies down, "down" is unnecessary.
*She sat down in the chair.
*She sat in the chair.
UP: If the verb implies up, "up" is unnecessary.
*He stood up.
*He stood.
OUT: If the verb implies out, "out" is unnecessary.
*The cloth was spread out over the table.
*The cloth was spread over the table.
THEN: If action follows, "then" is implied.
*He aimed the gun, then fired.
*He aimed the gun and fired.
BEGAN - STARTED: *He raised an arm and began to scrub viciously at his skin.
*He raised an arm and scrubbed viciously at his skin.
*He lifted the pen and started to write.
*He lifted the pen and wrote.
FELT - FEEL: Weak words can often be replaced to create a clearer image
*The chill of the night air had little to do with the cold she felt.
*The chill of the night air had little to do with the cold swirling inside her.
BACK: Often a given if the subject of the sentence is doing one thing and then does another.
Also note in the example, down was unneeded.
*Jessie shook her head as she gazed back down at the child.
*Jessie shook her head as she gazed at the child.
BACK - RETURNED: Sometimes "returned" can signal going back to a previous action.
*He turned his attention back to the raging storm.
*He returned his attention to the raging storm.
PASSIVE VOICE: Various methods of torture developed by his ancestors were contemplated
by Harrison.
ACTIVE VOICE: Harrison contemplated various methods of torture developed by his ancestors.
INSTEAD: Often unnecessary. It's a given that he didn't land on the chair if he landed on the floor.*He'd land on the floor instead of the chair.
*He'd land on the floor.
TO THE: Often causes wordiness
*The door to the office.
*The office door.
SUDDENLY: Seldom needed. If it's the next action, writing it as such often eliminates the
need for the word.
*Suddenly the bull lurched forward.
*The bull lurched forward.
BE--ING: Sometimes makes for longer, weaker sentences.
*I suppose I should be thanking you.
*I suppose I should thank you.
COULD: Determine if the sentence conveys the information without it.
*He could see her walking toward him.
*He saw her walking toward him.
*Even better: She walked toward him.
WOULD: Determine which sentence is stronger and if "would" is needed. Sometimes it is.
*Occasionally, he would catch her watching him.
*Occasionally, he caught her watching him.
THERE: Generally weak and should be removed when possible.
*If there are men that close--
*If men are that close--
SEEMED: Use only when you want to create an image of doubt.
*Harry's presence seemed to dominate the camp.
*Harry's presence dominated the camp.
WAS (and other linking verbs): Signals a possible weak sentence that can be punched up with a stronger action verb.
*His only fear was--
*He feared--
TO BE: Another example of wordiness.
*He needs to be scrubbing.
*He needs to scrub.
THATA word we all overuse; sometimes it's necessary, often it's not. Always try the sentence
without it and see if it means the same.
JUST: Another word we overuse. Try some of the synonyms like merely, only.


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ALWAYS AIM for the
"WOW" FACTOR,

+
MEMORABLE SETTINGS.

EXPOSE YOUR READERS to FABULOUS WORDS 
and NEW WORLDS.

All readers (editors & agents included) love to learn as they read. Whenever possible, place your action in a setting that treats your readers to a locale about which they know very little. A dairy farm, a secret intelligence agency, a coalmine, even another time in history. These are all settings that have the potential to transport readers to new worlds. It's no secret that the success of medical and legal thrillers is due in large part to their "settings" (we all love to learn about the inner workings of hospitals and courtrooms.) Readers love to learn, so choose settings that expand knowledge.
IN AND OUT SCENE-BUILDING
Keep things moving
Regardless of what type of manuscript you're writing, scenes that "drag" are the kiss of death. Often, dull scenes are the result of elaborate setups and wind-downs -- extra commentary before and after the critical event. You often hear successful authors and screenwriters quote the mantra, "In late, out early." This simply means that they open their scenes as late into the action as possible and close their scenes as early as possible (often before the action has even concluded.) If you have a scene that seems to drag, try trimming from the beginning and the end rather than the middle.
A SOLE DRAMATIC QUESTION
Build your foundation with a SINGLE brick
The best manuscripts have a single dramatic question: Will Ahab catch the whale? Will the Jackal kill his target? Will the young lawyer escape the corrupt law firm that hired him? The twists and turns in your novel can (and should!) be intricate, but your foundation needs to have a sole, central conflict around which all the action revolves. A good way to test your manuscript is to synopsize your plot in a single sentence. Can you do it?

INFORMATION WEAVING

Doling out descriptions in "bite-sized" chunks
Once you've researched the "specifics" of your novel, there is an overwhelming urge not to let any of it go to waste. Be careful. Long dry passages of description are a turnoff to readers and agents alike. Remember, we read novels to find out what happens to characters (if we want to read a five-page description of New Delhi, we buy a travel guide.) whenever possible, intersperse your factual description with action and dialog. Better yet, have your characters interacting with your description, that is, let your characters see, smell, and taste your specifics.

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The 5 "C" RULES for WRITING
COMPELLING FICTION.

CHARACTERS: both you and the reader care about.
COMPLICATIONS: something happens: crises, conflict.
CHOICES: your character makes.
CONFLUENCE: tie it all together at the end.
CONCISE: make the writing tight and terrific
(don't waffle on about things that don't move the plot forward)

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GOALS for YOUR FIRST CHAPTER

Establish your major character.
Focus on what is important.
Character's conflict -- make this clear.
Setting.
Set the time frame.
Hint at direction -- a good HOOK into the rest of YOUR book.

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Checklist for Picture Books
CONFLICT: The protagonist needs to be in conflict with something or someone for the story to grip a reader. Have some problem that bothers, or gnaws, or leads to trouble. The hero/heroine gets to solve the problem over the course of the story. The solving is the meat in your story. 
DIALOGUE: Kids like realistic fast action dialog. It brings things up close and personal. Try for a good hook at the beginning of the story - in the first paragraph. 
GET to the POINT of the story ASAP, because young kids have short attention spans. You will not hold their attention if the story wanders from the main point. 
READ LOTS of  PICTURE BOOKS in the age you are planning to write. This will show you what publishers like and what kids read. Ask your librarian for guidance about what to choose.

A GOOD WAY to PLOT
a  PICTURE BOOK.

Something happens to someone
and
this leads to making a goal
and
that needs a plan of action
but
forces try to stop the protagonist
yet
he moves forward because there is a lot at stake
then
things get as bad as they can
and
he learns an important lesson
however
when he is offered the prize he had sought so hard, he has to
 decide whether to take it on
thus
in making this final decision he satisfies a need created
by something in his past.


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CREATING TENSION.
The Three C's.

The Clock - The Crucible - The Contract.
We've all heard of the four C's of diamond buying, but writing suspenseful children's fiction has some C's of its own. Here are three elements that your favorite authors invariably employ in their manuscripts to infuse their stories with extra pace and tension.

** THE CLOCK: Placing your action in the shadow of a ticking clock. Nothing intensifies dramatic tension like time pressure.. a fixed window of opportunity after which all is lost. In some genres the time pressure literally can be a ticking bomb (a la James Bond), but more subtle ways exist to apply time pressure. Bridges of Madison County is a good example. In Bridges, the heroine must make a major life decision before her family returns from vacation in three days. (If she'd had the rest of her life to make the decision, the story would have been dull.) Time pressure forces your characters to take action. 
** THE CRUCIBLE: Constraining your characters as you apply the heat. A crucible is defined in Webster's as "an enclosed vessel used for melting materials at high temperatures." Whenever possible, place your characters in a crucible. Lock them in to that when you turn up the heat, they do not have the option of running away. In other words, tie our characters' hands and force them to become resourceful in finding a solution to whatever challenges you put before them. Peter Benchley created a brilliant crucible for his characters in the final scene of Jaws. He placed them on a sinking boat... with the radio blown out... miles from shore... the shark closing in. Even if his characters wanted to run, they could not. They were constrained. The ocean was their crucible.

**THE CONTRACT:* Making promises to your reader, and then keeping them. Good writers create tension by filling the pages of their novels with "promises" to their readers. For example, if an author makes ominous mention of a loaded shotgun in the closet, the reader perceives this as a contract with the author: If I keep reading, that shotgun will be used. This promise serves as foreshadowing and creates tension. When will the gun be used? Against whom? Promises can work on more subtle levels too. By describing a gathering storm outside a character's window (and doing it in just the right way) you can promise your reader that tough times lay ahead for this poor soul. Again tension. Remember, though, once you make your reader a promise, you better deliver.

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CHECKLIST for MIDGRADE
plus TWEEN.


1) SETTING:

Does my setting reveal a "new world" to my readers?
Does it have the potential to teach?

2) IN-AND-OUT SCENE BUILDING:
Do my scenes start late and end early? Does my plot keep moving?
 
Can I trim excess fat from lead-ins and wrap-ups?

3) DRAMATIC QUESTION:
Is the fundamental question driving the action a simple one?
Can my plot be summed up in a single sentence?

4) TENSION:
Do I employ the three C's? Do my characters exist in the shadow of a ticking clock?
Are they constrained by some sort of crucible? Do I make contracts with my reader...
and then follow through?

5) RESEARCH:
Do I know enough about my topic to write a manuscript filled with specifics?
 
 What (specifically) will my reader learn?

6) WEAVING INFORMATION:
Is my background information "woven" into my story,
or does it occur in long blocks of description?

7) REVISION:
Have I reworked my manuscript many times? Have others read it
and offered criticism? Have I tightened dull scenes?
Have I seasoned the stew?


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REVISION
The most fun of all

Somewhere along the way, revision got a bad reputation. Many aspiring writers dread reworking their manuscripts and therefore don't do it. Few of these writers will ever be published. Revision is not only absolutely crucial to the success of your manuscripts, but it can also be the most enjoyable part of writing.
  However, before you begin, put your MS aside for a week or two. This "rest period" allows it to marinate. When you reread it later on,  with a fresh perspective, you will be surprised (shocked?) by the areas that need reworking or tightening. 
When you are finally ready to revise, you have already done the bulk of the hard work. Your ideas are in place, and all that is left is reshuffling ideas, cutting superfluous chatter, trimming the fat, and making all your hard work shine. Revision is like seasoning a stew. . . savoring what works and spicing up what doesn't. Enjoy the process. Remember, while this manuscript is being published, you will be back writing page one of your next project.

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EMAIL ME.
We  can chat about YOUR manuscript
and how to make it tight and terrific!

****

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"Content" Edits + Help








PERSONAL GUIDANCE for
BEGINNING WRITERS


* Do you know what a protagonist's voice is?

*Must rhyming picture books have a good storyline?

*Having trouble with your plot and dialog?

*A Hook? Focus?
What are they and why do you need them
?



* Read lots of children's books.
* Join a critique group.

* Rewrite often. 

* Put your story aside for a while and allow the concept to mature.

*These are golden rules for writers who
want to be published.



* FOCUS -
Focus means knowing where your story is going and keeping it on track. Focus is not allowing paragraphs or pages to develop a life of their own and wander far from the main plot. NOTEKeep track of the small details. Make sure you take a character from point A to point B before you have them pop up with dialogue. Always get to the point via the shortest route and the least number of words. Choose your words for their power and evocative content. When descriptions and scenes go on too long, readers lose the thread. FOCUS on the details of your plot, and avoid being sidetracked.

* STORY ELEMENTS Plot and Character Development
Story Development goes hand-in-hand with Focus. Before you begin writing, have a rough idea of where the plot will take your characters. Get your main POV (point of view) character set up fast. Your POV needs a distinctive "voice." This means the way he talks, the way he moves, and the way he interacts with others. Give him foibles, or mannerisms that make him stand out as unique. Get to the meat of the story ASAP. NOTE: Always think kid! Editors (and kids) want actions, reactions, and great dialogue.

* SENTENCE STRUCTURE -
Sentence structure needs clarity above all else, plus appropriate grammar and punctuation. Great writers use words to paint pictures. You never have to read their sentences twice to grasp their meaning. Sentences need to be smooth and natural - like they came from the mind of a real person - dialogue likewise. Active and powerful verbs are a writer's best friend. Use a good thesaurus to find new, fresh, and evocative adjectives. Be wary of adverbs - they mostly prop up weak verbs. NOTE: Your sentences need to draw your reader in, and show what is happening with absolute clarity.
* TIGHT WRITING - Tight writing is partnered with Sentence Structure. Never use ten words when 5 will do the job. One wonderful adjective, plus a strong verb, will give you a powerful sentence. Weak verbs, held up by an adverb or two, plus a wishy-washy adjective, give you nothing an editor will bother to read. If the sentence, paragraph or page, does not move the story forward, CUT IT!  
        NOTE -- Overwriting is common. This happens when you use too many words. Paint a clear word picture and then move on.* Waffles are for breakfast, not for books.
* CHARACTER ENRICHMENT -
Character enrichment means letting the reader into the heart and soul of the POV. Do this by his actions, his dialogue, and his inner thoughts and angst. Let him have faults that he overcomes. Let him grow as a person. Make sure he has a distinctive "voice," one that remains constant throughout the story. Your reader wants to root for, and identify with, your lead character. 
 NOTE: Rich characters have layers of interest. These layers are built up chapter by chapter - a dab of information here, a little background there, some dialogue that lets out a few secrets, etc. Dialogue that is overheard by your POV can inject interesting facts or back- story into the plot. Adding actions and reactions works. Beware of the "information dump." This is when a huge chunk of detail or information is dropped onto a page. Personal thoughts are a wonderful way of getting into the head and heart of your POV.
* THE ART OF THE "HOOK" - Hooking your reader is simple. Plenty of action, dialogue, and pace. You lose your reader when the story wanders away from the action for too long. Build tension by seeding hints and clues. Offer portents. Keep your writing tight. Especially in a mystery. NOTE: End chapters with a hook - a cliffhanger thought or event that lures the reader into turning the page. Make it so they can't resist.
 * PACE & TENSION -     
Overwriting (waffling) is the enemy of Pace. A slow build-up of tension gives a good pace. Dropping hints and clues build tension, which in turn moves your story along. Short, punchy sentences give a better pace than longwinded lines. NOTE: Shorter chapters (5-7 pages) give a feeling of a faster pace
* FINAL SUGGESTION -
Make the local librarian your friend - they love to help writers. Your librarian can recommend classic, as well as just published books, by authors who have the genre down cold. Dissect the plots and the characters in the books you love, and you will discover what makes them work so well
 

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PERSONAL GUIDANCE is MY SPECIALITY.


NOTE

I need to READ your manuscript
before I quote you a fee.

Most publishers require a 32 page picture book to be  well under 1,000 words. Small kids have short attention spans, and printing cost are the reasosn PBs need to be short and sweet. Colored illustrations are expensive to print, and should be kept to approx. 10-12 per book.
Stories with more than 1,000 words need extra pages, and added illustrations. The extra printing cosst can make them too expensive. Keep your soft cover costs as close to (or under) the $10 retail mark as possible.
I am always happy to chat with
you
about your writing.



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ABOUT
"Content" EDITING + CRITIQUES






NON-RHYMING PB.

Advanced or Published Writers:I will read your story,
and then give you suggestions about adding that
 final polish. Useful for those who can rework
 a story themselves, with only a little direction.
** My basic fee for this is $40.00.

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IN-DEPTH NON-RHYMING PB.
For Those Starting Out.


This includes page-by-page comments and suggestions, advice about word use, sentence length, Illustrations, and why PBs do need a great story. Helpful examples are
 
given where necessary.** My basic fee for this is $70.00.

NOTE: I do charge extra if I have to prune hundreds
of words
 or rework your story.

****


RHYMING PB.
An In-depth Critique -
This gives you page-by-page help, plus suggestions
that guide you through the mystery of
meter,
 syllable count, and rhyme.

My useful examples will help you develop
a smooth meter.  Word choice, beginnings
 and endings, and the importance of
 story development are included.
** My basic fee for this is $70.00.

NOTE: 
Working on correcting rhyme and meter is
very time consuming, so I do charge extra if
 your rhyme and meter is way off, and I
 have to offer examples for almost
every verse, and the plot also
needs strengthening.


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MIDGREDE or TWEEN
First 3 Chapters.
"Content" Edit + Review

I will read your first three chapters, and then 
give you helpful suggestions about sentence

 length, word choice, beginnings, and endings, 

POV, FOCUS, how to hook your reader, 

plus story development, etc. 



This is useful if you are an advanced writer,

and feel you can rework the story yourself, with only a little direction.

     ** My fee for this is $65.00.


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An IN-DEPTH CRITIQUE -
for Beginners.

Three chapters - this includes everything in
the overview, plus page-by-page comments,
with suggestions and examples where
 necessary. Help with the protagonist's
voice, FOCUS, POV, dialogue & more. 
** My basic fee for this is $90.00.

CONTACT ME if you want an individual
quote on a Critique or an Overview
for a completed manuscript.
****

NOTE
For Writers of MG and TWEEN Books.

Critiquing a many-chaptered book takes all of my concentration and dedication. When I accept your manuscript for a critique, I plan a specific time for it. I also work with other clients, so you all fit into my overall plan. 

SO BE WARNED!
Long delays between returning to me  your reworked individual chapters for a final look-see, unless this is agreed upon ahead of time, will force me to withdraw my help - without a refund!


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* MANUSCRIPT DETAILS *
What I need from you.


#1 - Send your manuscript or chapters as a
  Word (.doc or .docx) attachment.

#2 - The fees quoted above are only guidelines. After I read your manuscript or chapters, I will get back to you with an initial evaluation, and quote you my fee based on that evaluation, and what I feel will make your story shine.

#3 - DO NOT send artwork unless requested.

#4 - I require a detailed Synopsis for in-depth critiques of Mid Grade and Tween MS.

#5 - EMAIL Me for "Special Quotes" on multiple chapters.


#6 - My fee entitles you to only one critique of the chapters you send, plus a quick look through later, if needed, to make sure you "got" it.
However, I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Each page will have comments, suggestions, and if needed, examples that
explain how to rework something.

#7 - Requiring me to rewrite sections of your manuscript means that I must charge a higher fee.



EMAIL Me if you need further information.


NOTE:
 If my detailed critique is not enough to help you rework your pages into a tighter, more active and powerful story, then perhaps taking a writing lesson or two, and reading lots of books in your genre is what you need, rather than another critique.
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HOW to PAY.

Click on YOUR PayPal link.

This link takes you to your
PayPal SIGN IN PAGE.


 GO  to  SEND MONEY, 
 and use
my EMAIL to send the fee I quoted you.


NOTE: You must be a PayPal member to pay this way.
PayPal also sorts out all overseas exchange rates.

****

For 
PERSONAL CHECK  (U S  only).

 For payment by a Personal Check, 
please
 EMAIL for my address.


PLEASE NOTE:
Due to several unfortunate experiences in the past,
I require my fee before I return your completed critique.

Thank you.

****












Margot's BOOKS



Books, an Author’s Pathway
to Immortality.



****


My Credo Is That 
ALL  KIDS are CREATED EQUAL
And that BLACK LIVES MATTER as much as the
lives of any other person in this country.

Some of my books for kids are multicultural, and
I am proud of writing them.


READING ABOUT OTHER CULTURES and  PEOPLE
CREATES  EMPATHY and UNDERSTANDING.


Become a part of the RAINBOW NATION!

Divisions make us weak  --  Together we are invincible!



****






****


Send My “Surprise”
GIFT CERTIFICATE
to the KIDS in your life!

BUY a Gift Card

 Go to
Send Money on YOUR PayPal account -
and use mfinke@frontier.com

SEND  Margot $11.00 for a Gift Card  (US only)
NOTE: Add the child’s name and address to the
MESSAGE Section of my PayPal payment page.

THEN . . . RIGHT-CLICK this Certificate and SAVE AS.
 
EMAIL the Certificate to the 
child, and tell them to go to my
BOOKS Page and choose a book:

https://www.margotsmagic.com/2019/11/margots-books.html   

 I will post the book
they choose - ASAP!


****


SCROLL DOWN
 for

My BOOKS




PURCHASE LINKS:

   AMAZON  - Softcover + Kindle (99c or Free)

EMAIL ME
for “GIFT” Book Autographs.


OR
Go to the top of the righthand column
and eMail your ORDER from there.

(Please Include your email as well)



**************


Margot's

BOOK EXTRAS
that will help you choose the right book.

READ SAMPLE 
CHAPTERS  to your kids.

OR
Hear Margot READ
 from one of the titles below.
DAISY and BARTHOLOMEW Q 
Fantasy Adventure MG.


HORATIO HUMBLE BEATS the BIG D
(dyslexia)  - Helpful PB.


TACONI and CLAUDE -
Aussie Adventure - coming of age MG.

THE REVENGE of THELMA HILL 
Ghost Mystery  MG.

RATTLESNAKE JAM -
Fun, rhyming PB.


RUTHIE and the HIPPO'S FAT BEHIND -
Helpful rhyming PB - sudden changes.



OSCAR is DIFFERENT  -
Helpful rhyming PB -dyslexia



*****


Margot's
PICTURE BOOKS 


Please NOTE:

BOOKS that have 3 RED STARS beside the price
are only available from THIS PAGE.

The rest are available on BOTH this page as well as
AMAZON/KINDLE + other online stores.



REASON:


One of my Publishers CLOSED its doors, and it will take
me some time to sort things out and REPUBLISH.





$9.99       -         Kindle $3.99


 $9.50   -    Kindle - $3.50         -        FREE pdf copies. ***
                        
    
***  $9.99                                       ***           $10.95

***  $9.95                                           ***        $10.95

***  $9.95  

****



MID-GRADE BOOKS.

 MID-GRADE

 $9.95   - Kindle $5.00   ***   -    $8.95 -  Kindle   $5.00  ***


$9.95  - Kindle $2.99                                     $8.99  -  Kindle  99c



NOTE:
My mom was the model for
 the ghost in Thelma Hill.


EMAIL me, and I will share
this amazing story with you!
 


$9.95  - Kindle $2.99


****