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  • 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. Know their likes, 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.

  • 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, almostalmost like, already, also, am, anyway, appears, approximately, arebackbad, Basically, be, being, beautiful, been, began, begin to, big, but, certainly, close to, cold, could, definitely, downeven, eventually, exactly, fairly, feelfelt, finally, good, had, had had, here, highly, hot, however, insteadisjustjust thatjust 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, reallyscary, seem, seemedseems, silly, simply, slightly, slowly, so, softly, somesoon, somehow, somewhat, somewhat like, sort of, start to, started, stayed, such, suddenly, thatthentheretherefore, to be, to the, too, truly, usually,
    up, utterly, very, walk, was, was + ing verb, went, were, would.



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


Society of

Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

I remember the SCBWI acronym as 
Sitting on Chubby Butt Waiting for Inspiration!

writing tips

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