Writing Tips
 
SCBWI
I remember the SCBWI acronym as
Sitting on Chubby Butt Waiting for Inspiration!
Smile
 
  • Prolific children's author Jane Yolen, interviewed in Newsweek, was asked: What advice do you give to aspiring children's book writers? Her response:

    "First, read, read, read. Don't come and say, "There's nothing good out there. I think I'm going to write." You haven't read enough. The second thing is "BIC"—butt in chair. Just talking about writing doesn't get the writing done."

    The following tips are based on my experience:
           
  • Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attend as many of their functions as possible.

  • Take a class on writing for children and attend writing workshops.

  • Join a critique group. SCBWI can help you find one.

  • Always read your writing aloud before giving it to anyone else to read.

  • Read everything you can about writing for children.

  • Read and study children's books in the genre and for the age you want to write for.

  • Study the age group you want to write for. Know their like, dislikes, habits, etc.

  • Use active, vivid verbs, rather than adverbs. This is especially important if you're writing a picture book, because it is the actions which are illustrated.

  • Picture books are usually written in the third person point of view, because young children are literal.

  • Delete where possible passive forms of the verb 'to be'--is, are, am, was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being--followed by a verb ending in 'ed' or 'ing'.  

  • Keep dialogue short. Listen to kids; they rarely speak in complete sentences.

  • Use contractions in dialogue. Use words children understand.

  • Use adjectives sparingly in picture book manuscripts. Leave description to the illustrator. Replace adjectives that merely label or explain with descriptive nouns or adjectives that evoke sensory qualities.

  • Use positive phrasing instead of negative to cut words.

  • Read my favorite Writing Quotes for a plethora of helpful writing tips.

  • Visit  the links on my Links page for more insightful advice on writing for children.

  • If writing fiction, fill in these blanks: This is a story about __________, who wants more than anything to ________________, but can't because ________________.

  • Don't preach or teach, kids and editors will stop reading at the first hint of either.

  • If writing nonfiction, spend a lot of time and effort researching. Look for new facts. Use primary sources (letters, interviews, etc.).

  • Hook the reader with the first 10 words of a picture book and the first 300 words of a novel. Try using action, dialogue, senses, mystery, a question, a problem.       

  • Copy and print the following Weak/Vague Words List. 
    Post it next to your keyboard. Refer to it often. Use the Find button of your word processing program to search for and replace as many weak words as possible.

Weak/Vague Words List

(Compiled from several sources...
the  underlined words appeared on two or more lists.)

  • a bit, a little, a lot, about, actually, almost, almost like, already, also, am, anyway, appears, approximately, are, back, bad, basically, bebeing, beautiful, been, began, begin to, big, but, certainly, close to, cold, could, definitely, down, even, eventually, exactly, fairly, feel, felt, finally, good, had, had had, here, highly, hot, however, instead, is, just, just that, just then, kind of, little, loudly, maybe, mostly, nearly, nice, now, only, out, perhaps, probably, practically, pretty, quickly, quite, began, begin to, big, but, certainly, close to, cold, could, definitely, down, even, eventually, exactly, fairly, feel, felt, finally, good, had, had had, here, highly, hot, however, instead, is, just, just that, just then, kind of, little, loudly, maybe, mostly, nearly, nice, now, only, out, perhaps, probably, practically, pretty, quickly, quite, rather, really, scary, seemseemedseems, silly, simply, slightly, slowly, so, softly, some, soon, somehow, somewhat, somewhat like, sort of, start to, started, stayed, such, suddenly, that, then, there, therefore, to be, to the, too, truly, usually,up, utterly, very, walk, was, was + ing verb, went, were, would
  • Finally, practice writing everyday and develop patience and persistence. The following poem explains why:

The Three P's of Submission:
Practice, Patience, Persistence

 
by Charline Profiri

Write, read aloud, rewrite.
Stash away for a month.
Reread, revise, read aloud.
Send to your critique group.
Revise and read aloud.

Study publishers.
List possibilities.
Choose one.
Write cover letter.
Address envelope.
Include SASE.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope wait.
  

Nine months later,
A form rejection arrives.
Reread, revise, read aloud, resubmit.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope, wait.
  

Six months later,
Good news arrives.
A personal rejection!
Remember, even Seuss
Was rejected twenty-seven times
Before his first book sold.
Reread, revise, read aloud, resubmit.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope, wait.
  

Repeat, repeat, repeat,
As often as necessary
To get an acceptance
And sign a contract.

Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
Then the real wait begins...
     For your book's grand debut!
    
  
        

© 2004-2007 Charline Profiri All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be reproduced without the express permission of the owner.
Counting Little Geckos illustrations (c) 2004 Sherry Rogers.

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