Sunday, August 7, 2022

Writing a Book - 6 Tips to Hiring a Freelance Editor


 

By Karen Cioffi

Will hiring a freelance editor ensure you pitch the perfect game?

In writing terms, will it ensure you get published? Do you need an editor?  

There are a number of pros and cons related to whether you should hire a freelance editor. Some writers benefit greatly from the experience while others have a difficult time and may even get insulted.

Six Points to Examine Before Hiring a Freelance Editor

1. Can you handle it?

One of the most important aspects of hiring someone to critique or edit your work is to be open to criticism. If you do not have the personality to handle constructive criticism, suggestions, and/or edits, then you shouldn’t hire a freelance editor.

2. Learn the craft.

Before you contemplate hiring a freelance editor, get your manuscript in the best shape possible by learning the writing craft.

What this means is you should know your craft or be engaged in learning it. You should obviously belong to a critique group that focuses on the genre you write. This group should have new and experienced/published authors in it. This will help you to hone your craft through the critiques you receive and the critiques you give.

There are also a number of fantastic free online writers’ conferences such as the Muse Online Writers Conference  that will help you hone your craft. There are workshops offered covering just about every writing genre, plus freelance writing and marketing. AND, you will have the opportunity to pitch to publishers. Between the networking and learning, it’s not something you should lightly pass on.

Next up on the road to learning your craft is to join a couple of writing groups – again be sure they have new and experienced writers. You can even look into a writing coach or instructor.

3. Self-edit, self-edit, self-edit.

Before you pass your manuscript off, be sure you’ve gone over it meticulously. Make sure you’ve gone over all the tips and tricks to have your manuscript in ‘good’ showing form.

Editors frown upon authors who send sloppy, error-filled manuscripts.

4. There are NO guarantees.

Hiring a freelance editor to go over your manuscript will not guarantee it will get published, even the best in the field can’t promise this. What they will do is help you to get it in the best shape possible. But, whether or not you take their advice is another story. And, again, even if you do, there are no guarantees.

This holds true everywhere in the writing world. After your manuscript is polished, you may send it to forty publishers and agents, and get forty rejections. Then, you send it to one more and it happens, this publisher was looking for just what you’re offering. They were looking for your story. Time and chance, my friends . . . and more importantly, perseverance.

But, it’s a sure bet if you’re manuscript isn’t polished you won’t ever get that far.

5. Ask around.

If you did your best to get your manuscript into what you think is publishable shape and you
want an editor to give it a final once over, be sure to ask for recommendations from other writers.

6. It ain’t over till it’s over.

Although you may spend money to get your manuscript edited before submitting it to publishers or agents, once it’s given a contract, it’ll be back to editing again – this time with the agency or publishing house.

Keep this in mind, so when it happens you’re not taken aback. It’s just the way it works.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear.” She also has a DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com
 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Can All Kid's Stories be Turned Into Books?


By Karen Cioffi

 As a children’s author, editor, and ghostwriter, I’ve only seen one story that couldn’t tweaked, nudged, shaken, or even deconstructed and reconstructed into a publishable story.

The concept and author of that one book were, well, not quite all there. Dealing with so many clients, I’m surprised I’ve only had one so far.

Aside from that, though, most stories or drafts can be magically turned into something an author will be proud to be author of.

A big problem I see is that new authors sometimes don’t know what a publishable story is.

But, wait a minute …

Let me clarify what I mean about a publishable book because today, any story can be published, whether poorly written or well written story.

When I use the term “publishable,” I’m talking about a book that meets the standard children’s U.S. publishing guidelines.

Three of the top mistakes I see that would warrant taking another stab at your story or demolishing it and starting over are:

1. The point-of-view

You’re writing a picture book or chapter book and have more than one point-of-view (POV).

This can happen when you have two or more main characters in your story, or it can occur if you have head-hopping in your story.

Let’s go back a step and define POV. Every story has to be told from someone’s perspective. In other words, who is the story about?

It’s essential in young children’s writing that you clearly define who the protagonist (main character) is. And, there should only be one.

Jerry Jenkins, the author of over 190 books, says he avoids slipping into an omniscient viewpoint “by imagining my Point of View or Perspective Character as my camera—I’m limited to writing only what my character ‘camera’ sees, hears, and knows.”

So, POV is a critical element of your story. Check to make sure you have only one POV and it’s that of the protagonist.

Head-hopping is slipping from one character’s POV to another within the same page, paragraph, or sentence.

In the example below, Tommy is the protagonist:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later, he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of its tube. Without blinking, he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

“Pete,” said Jim with a nudge, “you see that. I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.” Jim threw a pretend pitch. “Look at him running round the bases.”


The second paragraph in the example is a no-no. It brings Jim’s perspective into the story since Tommy couldn’t see or hear him.

Tommy is the protagonist and must know what’s going on in the story, or it can’t be in the story.

This could be rewritten, though:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

When Tommy raced to home plate, he heard Jim yelling, “I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.”


Now it’s all from Tommy’s point of view.

2. Adults save the day.

Children want to read about children. They want the protagonist to solve his own problem.

While parents or other adults in a story can be a support system, their involvement needs to be minimal. The young protagonist needs to come up with the solution to her problem.

Using “Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch, Stephanie wants to be unique. Here’s how the story starts:

“One day, Stephanie went to her mom and said, ‘None of the kids in my class have a ponytail. I want a nice ponytail coming right out the back.’”

The problem, though, is the day after Stephanie comes in with that particular ponytail, all the girls in her class have it. So, each day she tells her mother to create another specific kind of ponytail. The day after each new ponytail, the class copies her.

At the end, Stephanie comes up with a clever and funny idea that cures the class of copying her.

While the mother is involved in the story, it’s Stephanie who comes up with all the ideas. And it’s Stephanie who solves the problem.

3. Jumping in without learning how to swim first.

You’ve wanted to write a children’s book for years. You have tons of ideas, and you’ve even written a couple down. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t wait any longer; you put one of your ideas into a story.

You type or write away and finally, you have your story, and it seems great.

-Picture books can be 10 pages, right?
-You ‘kind of’ draw, so you can create your own illustrations, right?
-You have a couple of rhymes here and there, so that’s good, right?

While you may have a great story idea, standard picture books are usually 32 pages, and of those pages, 24-26 are for story and illustrations. Unless you’re a professional illustrator, you shouldn’t create your own illustrations. And, either you’ve written a rhyming story or not.

There are lots of other elements that you need to be aware of before jumping in to write a publishable book.

So, there you have it, three top children’s writing mistakes.

If I were to give a number 4, it would be that you have TOO much showing in the story. If I were to offer a number 5, it would be that you’re trying to knock the young reader over his head with the moral of the story.

Hope these tips help you when you sit down to write your story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Make Your Fiction Story Work


 

By Karen Cioffi

 Think about the last time you read a story that stayed with you. A story that made you feel. A story that took you on an adventure or had you sitting on the edge of your seat. A story that made you cry or laugh ... or think.

These types of stories have it. They have the key to making a story work.

So, how do you go about creating a stirring story?

Here are 5 top tips to writing a fiction story that works:

1. It’s got to have conflict.

All writers have heard this and the reason is because it’s true.

Your protagonist MUST be striving for something, and it should be something significant. She needs to have obstacles in her way that she has to overcome in order for the reader to be engaged enough to turn the page.

The reader has to be pulled into the story wondering if, and more so hoping that, the protagonist reaches her goal.

You wouldn’t have much of a story following a couple in an amusement park going from ride to ride, waiting on line for food, and so on. There’s nothing for the reader to get involved with. There’s no emotional element.

Or, what if a great writer puts two children in a story that takes place at the Bronx Zoo. The narrator describes in detail all the exhibits they visit and does it wonderfully. But, what does the reader have to sink her teeth into. Nothing.

One of my all-time favorite movies was Thelma and Louise. The conflict was never-ending. And, it was the conflict that keep you on the edge of your seat.

How would they get out of the mess they were in?!

That’s how you want your readers to feel. There needs to be conflict in order to make the reader feel. It doesn’t have to be ‘seat of your pants’ drama, but it needs to be significant. It can be external or internal, but it has to be something the reader can grab and hang on to. It has to make the reader get involved with the story and care about it.

2. The readers need to be invested in the story.

A good story brings the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. This is what will motivate the reader to like and root for the protagonist.

It’s all about making the reader ‘feel.’ The story has to evoke emotion on the reader’s part. The story has to have substance.

Going back to Thelma and Louise, one wrong decision spiraled out of control into what seemed to them as a live or die situation.

Circumstances and choices took them bounding out-of-control, as if caught up in a tornado. This kind of story creates investment.

It evoked emotion in just about everyone who saw the movie. Everyone was rooting for the protagonists.

In an article, “Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters,” the author calls this key factor, “transportation.” You’re bringing the reader out of their reality and into your story world. You’re transporting them.

Like Alice when she steps into the rabbit hole. Down, down, down she went into another world.

3. The characters have to act ‘real’ and be likeable.

Your characters need to be multifaceted. They need to behave like real people. This means they’ll have good traits, but they’ll also have some bad traits or weaknesses. It may be they’re indecisive. Or, at the beginning of the story they may be frightened of everything.

Your characters should make great decisions, but they should also make poor ones.

Along with this, your protagonist needs to be likeable. He needs to have traits that the reader will admire and connect to. It’s important that the reader likes the protagonist.

Maybe your protagonist will be honest, heroic, responsible, generous, or loyal.

You get the idea. These are characteristics that most people admire in others. They’re characteristics that will draw the reader in.

I forgot what movie it was and I forgot the exact details, but basically the protagonist was sitting in a diner across from her date. Another woman, elegantly dressed, walked passed with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe. The toilet paper woman was heading to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The protagonist excused herself for a moment. She got up and removed the paper from the woman’s foot by walking behind her and stepping on the paper. Then she sat back down and returned to her conversation.

The woman that passed by never knew the kindness the protagonist showed her. And, the protagonist didn’t mention what she did to her date.

This one simple act of kindness spoke volumes about the character of the protagonist. She’s the type of person you’d admire and like to be friends with.

4. The protagonist needs to have some heroic qualities.

At some point in the story, the protagonist needs to step up. This can be in several small incidents that she overcomes throughout the story. Or, it can be in one climatic incident that wraps the story up.

In general, and especially in children’s stories, the protagonist needs to take action and reach her goal.

It may be after one or two or three failures, but ultimately, the protagonist must step up. Whether it’s physical or emotional, whether internal or external, she needs to fight through all obstacles that stand in her way.

Readers want a purposeful story. They want and even expect the protagonist to be victorious. Don’t let your readers down.

5. Tie-up all loose ends.

When you’re getting to the end of your story, make sure all loose ends are tied up. Any tidbits of information you put out there must be resolved.

You want the reader to go away satisfied. You don’t want her wondering why something was mentioned somewhere in the story and not resolved.

One example is mentioning that the protagonist’s close friend lost his dog. Then there’s no mention of it. Was the dog found?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG?

Another example is in a middle-grade manuscript I read. The author had the friend of the protagonist saying he couldn’t go to the protagonist’s special event because he had something URGENT to do that day.

Afterward there was no mention of the urgent matter.

This is a NO-NO. What was so urgent? Why was it mentioned, if it wasn’t followed up with?

As I read the manuscript I knew that part would either have to be addressed (tied-up) or eliminated.

These loose-ends are things that will gnaw at the reader. They will finish the book feeling like something is missing. Again, this is a NO-NO.

So, there you have it.

While there is more involved in writing good fiction, these five are at the top of the ‘good fiction story’ list. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/



Monday, May 16, 2022

How to Give Basic Writing Advice

 


By Karen Cioffi

 A while ago, I was asked to look over a children’s fiction picture book manuscript. This was not a paying job, just a favor.

The ‘new to writing’ authors, who are both health care professionals, had already been calling major publishers to find out submission requirements. They were told their manuscript would not be looked at without an agent.

So, they went to the library to find a book on top agents.

While this is a worthy endeavor, there are some basic first steps to take before shooting for the stars.

Just glancing at the manuscript, I knew it needed a lot of work. And interestingly, I was surprised to see so many errors in a simple 600-word story.

It seems as we progress in learning the craft of writing, we forget that we didn’t know the very basics at one time either.

So then, I had to figure out what to say to the authors without alienating them or totally discouraging them.

When critiquing or giving writing advice, it’s important to begin with the positive aspects of the manuscript. If the errors are basic and there are a lot of them, you may also want to state them in generic terms, not to offend the author/s.

What does this mean?

Well, it’s not a good idea to say, “You shouldn’t have the children’s picture book manuscript formatted in lists, numbered, or in Australian Sunrise 10pt font.”

Instead, you might say, “Manuscripts are usually preferred typed in New Times Roman 12pt font, and are double spaced using a free form flow with the first sentence of each paragraph indented.

See the difference?

To help with clarity, you could include a first page example of a manuscript you have, or rewrite the 1st paragraph of the authors’ manuscript.

If there are just too many errors, for time’s sake you can make a list of proper manuscript formatting tips. This is the approach I took.

I started out with the ‘positive:’

This is a wonderful idea for a children’s book and has great potential, especially that both of you are professionals in the health field. Children will certainly benefit from the story’s information. It could use some tweaking, though.

Then I added a the following:

Here are a few tips for writing and formatting a manuscript to help get it submission ready:

•    Manuscripts should be formatted in 12 pt Times New Roman Font
•    They should be double spaced
•    They should be in free form without numbering for pages or in list form
•    The first sentence of each paragraph should be indented
•    Children love action – actions are better shown through ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’
•    Notes for illustrations after each of your intended pages are usually frowned upon by publishers
•    Most publishers, especially the major ones use their own illustrators
•    Manuscripts are more likely to make it past the slush pile if they are polished
•    Usually writers go through a process of one or two critique groups and writing groups. After rewrites and editing it gets to a point where it looks perfect. That’s when it needs to be professionally edited.

These tips are part of the advice I offered the authors and I kept it as generic as possible.

After you note the manuscript errors, you should end your advice on another positive note. You might say, “With rewriting and editing, you will have an engaging story that children will be sure to love, and it’ll be submission ready.”

I then provided several writing links about writing for children and editing.

Since every author’s personality is different it’s usually best to use the gentle approach when offering writing advice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/


 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Writer and Positive Thinking

 

By Karen Cioffi

 When I was looking for a house a few of years ago, I saw this quote by Sean McCabe, and it amazed me how accurate it is.

As my husband and I were looking, my husband saw all the things wrong with each house. It had wall paper; it needed a complete renovation; it needed a kitchen; the basement needed to be finished; the rooms weren’t right. The lot was too big. It was a corner property. The list went on and on.

I saw all the things right with each house. I saw how it could be. I have the ability to look beyond what’s actually there (see the invisible and feel the intangible) and see what can be.

It made me think about writing. Most writers understand that writing can be a tough business. There are lots of rejections and lots of ups and downs. To survive in this business, you need to keep a positive mindset. You need to persevere. You need to see beyond the slumps. You need to keep moving forward and achieve what may seem impossible.

This also goes for those who want to be an author but have no clue how to go about doing it. Seeing things through a positive mindset allows you to figure out what to do, whether it means hiring a ghostwriter or taking the steps necessary to learn to write yourself.

But it goes beyond writing. As with everything in life, there will be obstacles in your path. Sometimes those obstacles may seem insurmountable. The key is to not let them stop you. Keep moving forward. You might even envision yourself happily beyond the problem or obstacle.

So, whether it’s with your writing life or life itself, be a positive thinker.

See the invisible and the intangible and achieve the impossible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include Walking Through Walls and The Case of the Stranded Bear. She also has a DIY book, How to Write Children’s Fiction Books. You can check all her books: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com.
 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Queries - Be Specific and Professional


 

By Karen Cioffi

All writers face the dreaded query. Did I put enough information? Did I put too much? Did I have a great hook? Am I submitting to the right publisher?

These are just a few questions that run through a writer’s mind when mailing, or clicking the send button for the query. So, how do you answer these questions and the many others that go along with the job of crafting a query?

Well, the first simple response to this question is to READ the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines. Okay, that’s not accurate-you need to STUDY and FOLLOW those guidelines precisely.

Items to watch for when reading those guidelines:

1. What genre does that particular publishing house, agent, or magazine publish?

2. Does the publisher/agent accept simultaneous submissions?

3. Is there a specific word count involved if querying for articles?

4. Does the publishing house accept unagented queries?

5. Does the magazine only accept specific themes, if so, is your article on target?

This list is not complete, there are obviously more items to watch out for. So, we go back to the main rule for querying: FOLLOW the GUIDELINES!

But, following the guidelines is just part of the querying process; you also need to know some inclusion essentials.

Six rules to use that will help you create a winning query:

1. Be professional. Writing is a business just like any other-treat it as such.

2. Be sure to include your contact information: address, telephone number, email address and website.

3. If you were referred by someone include it in the query. Every little bit helps, but be sure it’s a referral from someone the editor actually knows.

4. Write tight – be specific and jump right in. You want to provide enough information to warrant the editor to want more, but you need to keep it to one page.

5. The first paragraph is the pitch-within a couple of sentences you need to hook the editor or agent. The second paragraph is about you, again keep it brief and include your credentials. The third paragraph is your conclusion; thank the editor/agent for his/her time and mention if you are enclosing a SASE and if the query is a simultaneous submission.

6. In regard to your bio: Limit personal information unless it adds to your credentials as a writer qualified to write for this publisher.

A good way to practice for queries and pitches is to write a one sentence out of the ball park description of your manuscript. This will help you to think and write tight and choose the perfect words to hook the reader and convey the essence of your story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach, with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear.” She also has a DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com