Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freelancing for Newspapers

by Katie Hines   

If you’re a new author, or simply looking to tighten your writing and get paid (not much) at the same time, writing for newspapers may be for you. It has been my experience that most local newspapers in smaller communities are looking for writers for a variety of feature stories, which can lead into op-ed pieces and even weekly columns.

I got started writing for a newspaper when our local paper posted a notice, stating they were looking for new authors to write for their “Living” section. The living section of most papers encompasses gardening, plays, columns by Dear Abby and Billy Graham, the editorial page, local community happenings, and so forth. Most papers have an equivalent to a living section, and it is here you can score your first writing gig.

When I answered the ad, I was armed with a sample of my writing. Since I’d never written for a newspaper, I wasn’t sure what to submit, so I decided to go with a humor piece I’d written about my kids morphing into aliens when they reached the ripe old age of 13. Now here’s the easy part: I didn’t have to go any further than my computer, because the editor’s contact was an email address. I simply created an email and attached my article.

With something like this, don’t get all hung up with crafting a wonderful query letter or slaving over your email. You’re simply answering an ad, and are pleased to offer a piece of writing for his consideration. That’s it.

How long should you wait to hear from an editor? As with publishing houses, newspaper editors are busy folks, and for the most part don’t spend a lot of time with emails. I found out that my article was accepted when I opened the newspaper and saw my article, “The Aliens are Coming” right next to the article of my new best friend, Billy Graham. How cool was that? I kept submitting, and they kept publishing.

I will tell you that I did not receive any compensation for the first article, or the next several articles. And the several after that. What I did receive was valuable experience in writing under a deadline and crafting articles that were around 500 words, which was the length of articles they were looking for.

Next month, I’ll tell you how I ended up with a monthly humor column and writing for real money.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Promotion: Book Trailer for My Cat

posted by Vivian Zabel

     A new release by 4RV Publishing is the children's book My Cat, written by new author Tony LoPresti and illustrated by first time 4RV illustrator Deborah C. Johnson.

     Designer Aidana WillowRaven took the cover, the three illustrations chosen for public appearance, and created an adorable book trailer to match the writing and illustrations.

     A kitten makes a good pet, if the owner knows how to care for it. In the book, Miranda shares her knowledge with other children who might want a cat for a pet.

     The books can be purchased through the 4RV Bookstore,, Barnes & Noble, and other brick and mortar stores.

     Let's watch the My Cat trailer together:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Having a Marketing/Promo Plan on a Budget by: Stephanie Burkhart

These are a "must" for authors:

I must have a marketing plan.
I must have a marketing budget.
I must have patience.

It takes 3-5 years for a new author to really establish themselves as a presence. Some like Amanda Hocking get lucky, and while I do think a little "luck" plays into selling books, most everyone's luck has a solid marketing plan behind them.

What's a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is what you, the author, is willing to do to get your name out there. I've lumped marketing into two separate categories: Social Media and Personal Contact.

Here are some things you can ad as an author to your marketing plan:
1 Join Twitter
2 Join Facebook, make a fan page, and join book groups on FB
3. Join Goodreads
4. Talk on the Amazon Message boards
5. Join Yahoo Groups that are targeted toward your writing audience
6. Send out press releases
7. Organize a blog tour
8. Solicit book reviews
9. Pay for an ad on a web related site.
10. Join writing organizations. For example, EPIC, RWA and SCBWI.
11. Enter book contests
12. Join Pinterest

13. Get involved with your local library
14. Go to a conference
15. Organize a book signing – this doesn't necessarily have to be at the local bookstore. You can organize one at your local coffee house or a local festival

There are probably a couple of other items you can include in your marketing plan that I might have missed, but this is a pretty comprehensive list. A good marketing plan incorporates the above items. Think long term – 6-12 months after your book is released and be patient.

Also realize that a marketing plan requires a marketing budget. That might be challenging in today's encomy. Me? I try to budget between $50-$100 a month. That's not a lot so I have to stretch my budget as best I can.

Things that cost:

Blog Tour giveaways
Ads on web related sites
Joining a writing organization
Entering contests

You have to take a look at what you can realistically do timewise and budgetwise.

Remember to designate time for certain things and stick to it. For example:

1 hour for writing, 30 mins for editing, and 1 hour for marketing/social media. That's 2 ½ hours. Modify it to fit your schedule.

Have patience with your plan. Remember your sphere of influence: you, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, the rest of the world. The goal of your marketing plan is to reach out to the rest of the world.

Over the next couple of months I'll take a detailed look at the pros and cons of the 15 aspects of marketing that I mentioned. It's going to be a fun ride.

Comments, suggestions, and feedback welcome.

Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She's also a romance and children author. Her books, The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire are published with 4RV Publishing.






Friday, April 20, 2012

Improve writing: Know about sentence variety

by Vivian Zabel   

sentence (noun): a group of words that expresses a thought and is complete in itself (starting with a capital letter and ending with a period or question/exclamation mark)
variety (noun): the quality of being different; not having uniformity or sameness

            Varying sentence length and patterns or types results in a natural form of writing that flows smoothly. If all sentences in a writing are the same length and type, then the writing becomes boring and dull. A variety of sentences not only holds a reader’s attention but causes the writer’s mind to think creatively and complexly. 

          Review of variety in sentences:

            Simple sentences offer one thought and are one independent clause. They generally have a subject and verb and maybe an object.
The moon rose last night.
The boy laughed at the joke.
Small birds awoke and sang. 
            Four main types of simple sentences exist.
  1. Declarative sentence (most common): The sky is blue.
  2. Interrogative sentence: Why is the sky blue?
  3. Exclamatory sentence: The sky is blue now! (It was black just a minute ago.)
  4. Imperative sentence: Don't go outside! (It's pouring rain.)
          Compound and complex sentences can also be any of the four main types.

            Compound sentences contain two simple sentences (two independent clauses) joined correctly.
The moon rises at night, and the sun rises in the morning.
Roses bloom in my front yard, but irises bloom in the side yard.
Terry and Joe wanted to go to town, but the car needed gas.

            Complex sentences contain one independent clause and one or more dependent (subordinate) clauses.
Mary thought about her grandmother, whose poor eyesight kept her from reading.
If you want a cake for dessert, you will have to bake it.
When the clock struck  midnight, Cinderella had to leave the ball before her gown turned back to rags.

            Compound-complex sentences contain two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
Mary thought about her grandmother, whose poor eyesight kept her from reading, and the decision to buy books on tape seemed a good one.
If I want to finish my novel, I’m going to have to spend more time writing; however, I have so many other things that I run out of hours in my days.

            There are a number of ways to add variety to writing. If the writer imagines himself cutting up a sentence into individual words and placing them in a paper bag and shaking it up, he can lay out the sentence parts and experiment: make two sentences out of one; put the sentence back to front; turn the sentence into a question. If you the sentence is too short, he may want to add another sentence to it. If he has a really important point, perhaps a famous person has said something similar and a quote would help. Sentences might begin with a prepositional phrase one time, a dependent clause another. 

            A good writer avoids using sentences that are all the same length. Short sentences are powerful. Combining short sentences with long sentences makes writing flow more naturally. The most important sentences should be clear and concise. Those sentences should be kept short. Descriptive sentences can have more length but need to flow naturally.

            Writing only in short sentences causes the material to be choppy, monotonous, and does not reflect the variety of complex thinking patters found in the human mind. Using dependent or subordinate clauses adds variety.

            Now how do we write dependent or subordinate clauses? Subordinating conjunctions are key words to begin subordinate or dependent clauses. Such key words, subordinating conjunctions, include the following:

after                 although                      as (far/soon)                as                                 as if or as though
because            before                          even if                         even though                how
if                      in case                         in that                          in as much                   in so far as
lest                   no matter how             now that                      once                             provided (that)
since                so that                         supposing that             than                             through
till                    unless                          until                             when, whenever         where, wherever
whether           while                           why

            When a  subordinate (dependent) clause begins a sentence, a comma follows the dependent clause – always. However, when a dependent clause comes within the independent clause (the main sentence), it is not set off by commas most of the time.

            Simple sentences contain one clause. More advanced types of sentences are "compound" (combining two sentences with a conjunction and proper punctuation or correct punctuation) and "complex" (using at least one dependent clause and one independent clause). Writers also need to know how to use conjunctions, adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases, conditionals, and noun phrases to add to sentence variety.

Next article: Using prepositional or participial phrases to vary sentences.  

4RV Publishing website  
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Types and Formatting of Quotes in Nonfiction
      Karen Coiffi discussed the importance of using quotes in nonfiction  for better and more credible writing in the previous article. Now let's examine the types of quotations and how to format them.

       First, quotes in nonfiction writing come in two types: direct and indirect. Direct quotations are used word for word from another source. For example if I copy the Preamble to the Constitution and use the quote in a nonfiction essay, book, or article, the information would be a direct quote. If I don't use the wording exactly, but paraphrase the Preamble, I have an indirect quote. In both cases I must give the source, the citation, but the display is completely different, differently formatted in my manuscript.

     The length of a direct quotation determines its formatting. A quote  about two lines long is incorporated into the paragraph where used. For example: 
     When discussing the keeping of secrets in war time, General Jackson told General Knox, “…but for God’s sake don’t communicate it to your best friends—her husband is a diminutively idle man, not in possession of a liver…" In other words, one shouldn't tell any one anything that is meant to be secret.

     If the quote is longer than one or two sentences, then it needs to be formatted in a block: single spaced, indented from both sides, separated from the sentences before and after by a space. For example:
     According to Beanery Online Literary Magazine, June 11, 2010, two types of quotations exist.

          There are two types of quotations, direct and indirect. Direct quotations use the 
           exact language, either spoken or written, from a source outside of our own writing 
           or speech, and must rest between a set of quotation marks. Nothing of the quote can 
           be changed. Direct quotations are useful if the source material has particularly striking 
           or notable language. 

However, when using a block format for longer quotations, quotation marks are not used. The block format informs readers the material is quoted.

     An indirect quote is written into the sentences and/or paragraph where used, and quotation marks are not used. For example:
     According the General Jackson, as he told General Knox, one shouldn't tell even a friend anything in wartime meant to be kept secret. (Note: source if know still needs to be used.)

     Of course, quotes in fiction are dialogue and have their own formatting.

4RV Publishing  
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Writing Nonfiction - Using Quotes

Writing Nonfiction - Using Quotes

By Karen Cioffi

Writing fiction has a number of elements that a writer needs to incorporate to create an engaging and believable story, such as characterization, plot, structure, clarity, and so on. Writing nonfiction also has a set of elements that must be incorporated into the piece to create similar results, such as clarity, structure, and an engaging story. But, when writing nonfiction the writer also needs to provide authentic information. defines ‘authentic’ as: “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.”

If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Anyone can write an article or a book and purport that it’s fact. But, what gives your content the authentic, credible element that it needs to be convincing, to be taken seriously?

The answer is simple: Using quotes.

While your nonfiction article may be accurate, you researched the information thoroughly and created your own content, there’s no real authenticity or credibility without relevant quotes from reliable sources to back your piece up. Along with adding creditability, using quotes increases your professionalism and expert status when writing nonfiction. Those who read your content will assume you know what you’re talking about because you provided evidence from reliable/expert sources.

The quotes can also be the cornerstone of your story, allowing you to build upon them.

Along with the above mentioned benefits of using quotes when writing nonfiction, Andrea Di Salvo, an author and freelance writer, provides a few more benefits in her article featured at, “Using Quotes to Give a Creative Twist to Your Writing.”

First off, using quotes offers variety by changing the voice of the story. According to Di Salvo, “Every writer has a voice, a certain tone to his or her writing.” While this is a good thing, switching it up a bit creates engagement and helps keep the content fresh. It helps break up the monotony of a possibly long drawn out monotone piece, which in turn will help keep the reader reading.

Di Salvo also notes that, “a good rule of thumb is to place a relevant quote every few paragraphs.” Along with increasing the story’s credibility, it also adds white space to the piece.

Why is adding white space to your article, report, or book important?

It aids in easy reading.

This is a known writing technique that is used in various forms of writing, including copywriting. You don’t want the reader to become hypnotized and blank-out from too much continuous text. If your content goes on and on with very few breaks (white space) the reader will lose interest. Using quotes will force you to create new paragraphs, which will usually be short. This adds additional white space and gives the reader a breather; it also creates a less cluttered piece, which is also something the reader will appreciate.

When using quotes in your article or book, be sure to offer information pertaining to the author of the quote. Take a look above at how I introduced Andrea Di Salvo and her information.

Sometimes, especially when writing health or scientific information, you may need to include quotes from research teams. Here is part of the information used in a health article I wrote regarding a particular quote used:

Researcher Talal M. Nsouli, MD and his colleagues at Watergate Allergy & Asthma Center in Washington reported their findings at an American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI) meeting.

Also keep in mind that you may need to list the sources for the quotes. This is usually done through footnotes or endnotes. According to the Chicago Manual of  Style (CMS), “The notes, whether footnotes or endnotes, are usually numbered and correspond to superscripted note reference numbers in the text.”

In addition, if your quote is six or more lines, it needs to be blocked off - each line of the quote needs to be indented. There is also the matter of using part of a quote or shortening a quote. In this case you will need to use ellipses and possibly brackets.

Another factor to consider when including quotes in articles is that article directories, if you will be submitting to them, only allow a certain number of ‘quote lines’ within your piece. So, it’s advisable to read their guidelines before submitting.

For in depth information on using quotes when writing nonfiction, you can check out the CMS and/or the APA Publication Manual.

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing. For professional and affordable writing services check out:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Improve writing: Know about sentence fragments

by Vivian Zabel  

                                                 When a writer doesn't know how to write correct sentences, how to put words together so they can be understood completely, the results are about as productive as a hen setting on cats: chicks don't hatch.

       Let's look at the second in the sentence series, sentence fragments.

    When sentences are not correct, are not finely tuned, the quality and clarity of communication is lost. One way to keep sentences from working is stumbling over sentence fragments. A sentence fragment is a group of words punctuated as a sentence but which lacks a subject, a verb, or both, and which doesn’t contain a complete thought.

      Let’s examine the following paragraph to discover some sentence fragments:

      "Intrepid mountain climbers scaling a tall peak. Climb higher and higher. Up the frozen slopes. When they reach the top. They can look forward to an even more treacherous descent."

     All of the sentence-like-punctuated groups of words in the preceding are fragments except the last. We will keep the paragraph in mind as we look at some ways to correct sentence fragments.

      Sometimes a fragment lacks a subject. Therefore, adding a subject makes the fragment a sentence.

Fragment without a subject: Climb higher and higher.
Sentence: They climb higher and higher.

     Another way to correct a sentence fragment would be to connect the fragment with a sentence, rewording it if necessary.

Fragment without subject or verb: Up the frozen slopes.
Sentence: They climb higher and higher up the frozen slopes.

        At times a fragment lacks a verb, perhaps using a verbal or verb without a helping verb. The way to correct this type sentence fragment would be to add a verb or change a verbal to a verb.

Fragment without a verb: Intrepid mountain climbers scaling a tall peak.
Sentence by adding a helping verb: Intrepid mountain climbers are scaling a tall peak.
Sentence by changing a verbal to a verb: Intrepid mountain climbers scale a tall peak.  (This change allows the sentence to be active voice)

        At times, a fragment has a subject and verb but doesn’t contain a complete thought, a dependent clause. To create a correct sentence, usually the fragment will need to be connected to a sentence.

Fragment lacking a complete thought: When they reach the top.
Sentence: When they reach the top, they can look forward to an even more treacherous descent.

       Now let’s see how the original paragraph filled with fragments can be a correctly formatted paragraph.

        "Intrepid mountain climbers scale a tall peak. They climb higher and higher up the frozen slopes. When they reach the top, they can look forward to an even more treacherous descent."

         A side note, sometimes writers will use an occasional sentence fragment for effect, but only occasionally. The effect is easily recognized by the reader when this practice is used. Otherwise, avoiding the problem is best.

         Finally, once we conquer the problem, we have no more stumbles because of sentences fragments, which could be dangerous on steep, frozen slopes.

4RV Publishing website 
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pile Police: Are they after you?

Spring cleaning? If the Pile Police paid you a visit, could your writing corner get you landed on an upcoming episode of Buried Alive?

Arrest yourself from bad habits—and improve your chances of publication—with these easy methods. Freedom and success comes with a painless, quick system that won’t take a month of being held up on rainy Saturdays to get going.

1. Writer Magazines, conference notes, and other stacks of “helpful” information
Save only the most useful advice by removing it from the magazine and putting it where it will truly be handy and helpful. See Binders below!

2. Binders – Gather several binders, ideally with pockets. Shop your house first. Mine are not fancy. I stole them from a box filled with my husband’s grad school work. He’ll never miss them.

3. What goes inside?
Devote a binder to specific purposes and manuscripts. Marketing and Promotion Ideas. Tracking School Visits. Great Writer Advice. Each novel-length project gets its own. Lump magazine articles together in a fat binder. Short stories or picture books share, too. If you have a lot of short pieces, perhaps label those by year.
Even if documents are stored in computer files, I print hard copies occasionally. This saved me once during a computer crash. The manuscript copy goes in the binder. Came across contact info for the perfect agent for your novel that isn’t ready to submit for another year? Save it in the binder. Great lines scribbled in a hurry on a menu? Brochure from visiting the story’s real-life setting? Use a hole puncher or slip them in a pocket. Plop in the bits and pieces that will help your writing succeed. When you are ready to spend time on a particular project, you will have everything to get up to speed without wasting time searching.

4. Rejection Letters:
Make this binder fun, as it contains pain, agony and pieces of your heart. I labeled mine: The Someday I will be Sorry Club

5: Other resources
For paperless tracking of submissions to agents and publishers, try online resources like Query Tracker. It’s a great place to gather research on industry needs without adding the clutter of research to your desk.

Now that you’re more organized, you’re free to write, write, write!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Improve writing: Know about sentences

by Vivian Zabel

     Books begin with sentences, then paragraphs, then manuscripts. However, if one doesn't understand sentences, can't write them correctly, then he won't manage to create a story, an article, or a book, whether fiction or nonfiction.

     Starting with this article, I am going to post a series of columns concerning the writing of sentences. This first one is short and simple: What is a sentence? I will then continue to types of sentences and sentence fragments and other components.

     Let's begin with what is a sentence:

            A sentence is a group of words (clauses) which have a complete thought.

Clauses: a dependent clause (subordinate clause) is a group of words that has a subject and verb but not a complete thought. (a sentence fragment is a dependent clause); an independent clause (main clause) is a group of words that has a subject and verb and forms a complete thought.

Simple sentence:  one independent clause

                        Russel enjoys baseball.

Compound sentence: two or more independent clauses joined correctly with punctuation (a semicolon or colon, not just a comma) or a comma and a conjunction

            March is a windy month in Oklahoma, but it often has bouts of winter weather.
            March is a windy month in Oklahoma; it often has bouts of winter weather.
            March is a windy month in Oklahoma: It often has bouts of winter weather.

Complex sentence: one independent clause and one or more dependent clause

            When the wind blows, the temperatures seem colder.

Compound-complex sentence:  two or more independent clauses joined correctly and one or more dependent clauses

            When the wind blows, the temperatures seem colder, and I don’t want to leave the house.

        We can use a variety of sentence types in writing to make the writing more interesting.

     Some sub-topics dealing with sentence structure include using commas correctly, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences, which we will discuss in future articles.

4RV Publishing    
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Holiday!

by Aidana WillowRaven

I won't bore ya'll with technical drivel today since most of us have Spring feasts to indulge in. I will, however share an illustration I did recently in honor of both St. Patrick's Day and Spring, which is what Easter celebrations were all about, even if I didn't have the forethought to hide a few eggs here and there.  Maybe I'll revisit this image later and add a bunny and some eggs. :D

But, I hope the feeling of Spring I tried to invoke is enough to make this a relevant image. :D

If you sense a story behind this, there is (as there is with most of my work), but it's more historical than anything else. You can read about it on my website.
Everybody have a safe and prosperous holiday!
Art Director & VP of Operations

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Who is responsible?

Who is ultimately responsible for the quality of writing that reaches the eyes of the reader?

First, traditional publishers don’t have the time or resources to copyedit or proofread books because of today’s publishing environment.

Second, many authors choose to self-publish or create digital books on various platforms.

Third, authors choose POD or companies like Lulu, Create space, Xlibris, Booklocker, and more publishing companies showing up daily.

Fourth, do publishers offer copy-editing as part of a publishing package?

Fifth, but not final, is the author.

As a reviewer who has reviewed over 100 books within a period of six years, I’ve seen what appears to be what I call quality writing becoming passé.

I have written blog articles about the trend of quality writing becoming obsolete; or has editing become outdated?

I have no explanation; I’ve noticed a trend in published books that makes me wonder if teachers still teach English in schools as it was when I was in school. In many books, I read for review, there are errors in grammar, punctuation, typos, and wrong word choices. I’ve also notice errors in punctuation consistency, and word usage.

Example: If the author uses the word, truck in a story, than car is used. It might be nice if the author would explain where the car came from. Am I the only one that finds this weird if the character arrived in one or the other in the story then they get in to a vehicle in the next paragraph that uses the other word? I’ve seen it.

I have noticed the use of old clichés, so old that they were old when I was young. What about taking a cliché situation and turning it around to make it new again. Authors are supposed to be creative.

What this all boils down to is, the author has the ultimate responsibility of the quality of the book that the reader purchases to read. If authors choose to publish a book, they need to obtain a copy and proofread it for any errors in the production and correct them before readers get to read the book.

Robert Medak
Published Freelance Writer, Editor, and Reviewer

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Promotion: Stolen review on The Midwest Book Review

      From the April issue of The Midwest Book Review 

Vivian Gilbert Zabel
4RV Publishing LLC
P O Box 6482, Edmond OK 73083
9780982588642, $16.99,

Stolen crafted by Vivian Gilbert Zabel is the proverbial page turner done with sensitivity and emotions that will keep you wanting more. The emotions are garnered from her own life as two of her grandchildren were taken by their father.

Torri Adamson and her children go to live with her family, after she learns that her husband has married another woman. She has spent her whole married life forgiving him his predilection for other women. This bigamous marriage is the last straw. He lets her have a divorce and does not want to have anything to do with the children. He even talks the other woman into marrying him legally.

As Torri picks up her life, she loses her best friend to cancer; she develops a new relationship with Jason, her best friend's widower who provides the father role in the children's lives. Then, her ex-husband makes a move that she cannot believe. He takes the children from her - stolen!

Mrs. Zabel has captured the tension that is always connected to a crime like this. You must read it if for no other reason than to see how Torri and her family deal with the ordeal.

"Abruptly halting in mid-step, she whirled to face Jason, her expression slightly out of focus with terror and tears. 'He wouldn't, would he? He couldn't, hurt, really hurt them, could he?'"

Vivian Gilbert Zabel has written several books and poems over the years. She always knew she would be a writer and she was right. She taught high school English and writing for twenty-
seven years. She lives with her husband of 50 years, Robert, in Oklahoma and periodically surrounds herself with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as she writes her books and poetry.

Katherine Boyer - reviewer

Aidana WillowRaven, who designed the cover and interior of the novel, created a trailer for Stolen. The novel can be purchased from the 4RV Bookstore, other online bookstores, and brick 'n mortar stores.

     Let's watch Aidana's trailer:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Writing Ideas for Children’s Stories

by Karen Cioffi

Sitting at the computer with a blank word document in front of you may be intimidating for a writer. You just finished one manuscript and need to start on another, or you’ve hired out to ghostwrite a story, whatever the reason is, you need to begin writing a children’s story – you need writing ideas.

Hmmm. What should it be about? You think and think. You gaze out the window. You notice a squirrel running along the branches of the tree outside the window. You draw a blank.

Alexander Steele wrote a short article in the October 2010 issue of the Writer, “Where Can You Find the Seeds of a Good Story?” It was interesting to read that Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick, had his own whaling adventures which he used to create a wonderful, everlasting story. Steele advices, “Probably the most fertile place to look for ideas is right inside the backyard of your own life.”

You might be thinking that you don’t have close contact with children, so you don’t have any experiences to draw on, no foundation for children’s writing ideas. Or, you may be so busy living your life and raising your children that you don’t have time to stop and see all the amazing story opportunities that are right in your own backyard. Well, even if these scenarios fit, you can take steps to rectify the situation.

Writing Ideas: Finding Story Fodder if You Don’t Have Close Contact with Children

1. Turn on the TV. Yes, this is an excellent source for writing ideas, as well as watching children’s behavior. While it may be in the confines of a scripted show, the writers of these shows try to keep it as real as possible. Take note of the situations, the attitudes of the characters, the scenes, and everything else. Even children’s cartoons have engaging storylines. It may be just the spark you need.

2. Go to a playground with notebook in hand. Watch the children play and listen to them talk. If you’re a professional writer or ghostwriter, or you’re already published, consider asking your local ‘age appropriate’ school if you could sit in the lunchroom during lunch periods. A useful way to get a positive answer would be to first ask if you could give an author or writing presentation to the students. The principal would need to be sure you are a legitimate writer. Please note though, there may be legal and safety aspects a school would need to consider.

Note: If you do go to a playground or other area where there are children, be sure to inform parents/guardians of what you're doing. It'd be a good idea to bring a copy of one of your published books with you, so they feel comfortable that you are indeed a writer. It's a crazy world, always take precautions, and keep the safety of our children at the forefront.

3. Read newly published children’s books, and reread ones you enjoyed as a child then reinvent a story. This is a tip I took advantage of with my own children’s middle-grade fantasy book, Walking Through Walls. I read an outline of an old Chinese tale and reinvented it for a children’s book.

I was recently reminded of this ‘writing ideas’ source by multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke. During a teleclass she presented, she advised to study books you like; pay attention to why they work, then “craft an entirely new story.” She explained that, “quirky and fresh” wins publishing contracts today.

Writing Ideas: Finding Story Ideas if You Do Have Close Contact with Children

1. Study the children you do have contact with, whether your own children, your grandchildren, or other relatives. Children are an amazing source of inspiration and ideas. They have an innate ability to make you feel: just looking at a picture of children may make you smile; hearing a baby laugh can actually make you laugh.

Watch the children, notice their mannerisms, body language, movements, attitudes and emotions, speech, and their interactions with other children and adults. You’ll not only get writing ideas for children’s story, you’ll also get dialogue and ‘showing’ descriptions.

2. If you have regular contact with children, you really shouldn’t need any other steps, but if the characters’ ages of your new story differ from the ages of the children you see, use the steps noted above.

Finding ‘writing ideas’ for children’s stories is rather easy once you tune in to what you’re looking for and where you can find it.

Photo courtesy of - Photographer: AKARAKINGDOMS

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