Saturday, April 20, 2019

Developing Story and Article Ideas - Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife


Author Chris Eboch with one of her Haunted books.
I hope these quick writing tips helps you jumpstart your writing!

This series on Developing Ideas is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Get the book if you want to see all the info at once.

 Developing Story Ideas


Once you have your idea, it’s time to develop it into an article, short story, or longer project. Of course, you can simply start writing and see what happens. Sometimes that’s the best way to explore an idea and see which you want to say about it. But you might save time – and frustration – by thinking about the story in advance. You don’t have to develop a formal, detailed outline, but a few ideas about what you want to say, and where you want the story to go, can help give you direction.

Story Structure


You can look at story structure in several ways. Here’s one example of the parts of a story or article:

·        A catchy title. The best titles hint at the genre or subject matter, as in these middle grade novels:

The Eyes of Pharaoh: a mystery in ancient Egypt
The Well of Sacrifice: an adventure set in Mayan times
The Genie’s Gift: a middle eastern fantasy
The Ghost on the Stairs: a ghost story

·        A dramatic beginning, with a hook. A good beginning:
– grabs the reader’s attention with action, dialogue, or a hint of drama to come
– sets the scene
– indicates the genre and tone (in fiction) or the article type (in nonfiction)
– has an appealing style

·        A solid middle, which moves the story forward or fulfills the goal of the article.

Fiction should focus on a plot that builds to a climax, with character development. Ideally the character changes by learning the lesson of the story.

An article should focus on information directly related to the main topic. It should be organized in a logical way, with transitions between subtopics. The tone should be friendly and lively, not lecturing. Unfamiliar words should be defined within the text, or in a sidebar.

·        A satisfying ending that wraps up the story or closes the article. Endings may circle back to the beginning, repeating an idea or scene, but showing change. The message should be clear here, but not preachy. What did the character learn?

·        Bonus material: An article, short story, or picture book may use sidebars, crafts, recipes, photos, etc. to provide more value. For nonfiction, include a bibliography with several reliable sources.

Novels do not typically have these things, but they may contain an author’s note, a glossary of unfamiliar words, maps, or whatever makes the material more accessible and appealing. Classroom resources or book club discussion guides can be made available separately. For example, teachers can download lesson plans for use with my historical novels, The Eyes of Pharaoh and The Well of Sacrifice, on my website.

You don't have to know all these pieces before you start writing. However, thinking about them first may save you editing time in the long run. Definitely make sure you have all the pieces before you submit your work!


Get More Writing Advice


Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock novels are action-packed romantic adventures set in Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. In The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, sparks fly when reader favorites Camie and Tiger help a mysterious man track down his missing uncle. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.

Fans of Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Terry Odell will want to check out Kris Bock’s romantic adventures. “Counterfeits is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners.” 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog

Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page. Sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

How To Find Story Ideas And Get Started Writing – Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife

Jumpstart your writing!

Use these quick writing tips inspire you to move your story forward.


Brainstorm Writing Ideas


  • Brainstorm 5 to 10 ideas for stories, articles, or novels. Then consider each idea in turn: 

1. Focus your idea – be specific and narrow, especially with short stories or articles. For fiction, focus on an individual person and situation, not a universal ideal. For nonfiction, go deep on one aspect of the topic instead of trying to cover a broad, general idea.

2. Ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish?
Who am I trying to reach?
Why am I writing this?

3. Know your audience – study the genre and age range. If you’re writing for publication, study publisher guidelines. 

4. What do you need? Will you have to do research or conduct interviews?

5. What would make the best place to start? For more help, check out my other blogs on finding ideas.)

With these notes, review your list of ideas and choose your top three.

Who Will Read Your Writing?


If you’re writing for publication, identify three possible markets for each. If you can’t find three possible markets, maybe it’s not worth putting time into that idea. However, if you are writing purely for your own pleasure, for your family, or to develop your skills without thought of publication, skip this step – you can write whatever you want!

Get More Writing Advice


Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

You Can Find Story Ideas – Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife


Do you need to jumpstart your writing? 

I hope this series of quick writing tips inspires you to move your story forward!

Maybe you want to write, but you’re not sure what you want to write. Or perhaps you have so many ideas you don’t know where to start. Here are some tips for brainstorming novel or story ideas. (This is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.)

Take some time to relax and think about each question. Take lots of notes, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to pursue an idea. You can put each idea on a separate index card, or fill a notebook, or start a file folder with scraps of paper. Do whatever works for you.

Find Your Writing Inspiration 


Look for inspiration in other stories, books, or TV shows. Can you take the premise and write a completely different story? Do you want to write something similar (a clever mystery, a holiday story, or whatever)? Do you want to retell a folktale or fable as a modern version, or with a cultural twist? How can you make that idea your own. (Avoid copying anything too closely – that can lead to charges of plagiarism.)

What do you see in the news? Is there a timely topic that could make a good article? If you read about a person doing something special, could you turn it into a profile for a magazine?

How might that news story work as fiction? Could you base a short story or novel on a true story about someone surviving danger or overcoming great odds?

Wherever you look for ideas, search for things that are scary, exciting or funny – strong emotion makes a strong story.

Get More Writing Advice


Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Six Ways To Brainstorm Story Ideas – Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife

Jumpstart your writing!

I hope this series of quick writing tips inspires you to move your story forward.

Maybe you want to write, but you’re not sure what you want to write. Or perhaps you have so many ideas you don’t know where to start. Here are some options for brainstorming ideas. (This is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, so it addresses writing stories for children. If you write for adults, simply do the exercises ignoring the "children" part.)

Inspiration for Writing 

  • What hobbies or interests do you have that might interest children?
  • What jobs or experiences have you had that could be a good starting point for an article or story?
  • Do you know about other cultures, or a particular time period?
  • What genres do you like? Would it be fun to write in that genre?
  • What genres did you like as a child? Did you love mysteries, ghost stories, fantasies, or science fiction? What were your favorite books? Why?
  • Even the phonebook can provide inspiration. Check the Yellow Pages: Could you interview an automotive painter, animal trainer, or architect for an article? What would life be like for a child to have parents in that field? How about a teenager who dreams of entering the profession?


Take some time to relax and think about each question. Take lots of notes, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to pursue an idea. You can put each idea on a separate index card, or fill a notebook, or start a file folder with scraps of paper. Do whatever works for you.


Write with Emotion


Wherever you look for ideas, search for things that are scary, exciting or funny – strong emotion makes a strong story.

Don’t preach. Kids don’t want to read about children learning lessons. All stories have themes, but when someone asks you about a mystery you read, you’re probably not going to say, “It was a story about how crime doesn’t pay.” Rather, you’ll talk about the exciting plot, the fascinating characters, perhaps even the unusual setting. A story’s message should be subtle.



Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

How To Find Story Ideas – Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife


Do you need a bit of inspiration to jumpstart your writing? Sometimes it's overwhelming to read and process a long blog post or article. I hope this series of quick writing tips inspires you to move your story forward!

Maybe you want to write, but you’re not sure what you want to write. Or perhaps you have so many ideas you don’t know where to start. Here are some options for brainstorming ideas. (This is excerpt from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, so it addresses writing stories for children. If you want to write for adults, simply do the exercises with people of a suitable age.)

Find story and article ideas based on the experiences of your children, grandchildren, students, or other young people you know:

·   What interests them?

·   What frightens them?

·   What do they enjoy?

·   What challenges do they face?

·   What do their lives involve – school, sports, family, religion, clubs?

Take lots of notes, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to pursue an idea. You can put each idea on a separate index card, or fill a notebook, or start a file folder with scraps of paper. Do whatever works for you.



Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How To Find Story Ideas – Quick #Writing tips for the #Writerslife


Do you need a bit of inspiration to jumpstart your writing? Sometimes it's overwhelming to read and process a long blog post or article. I hope this series of quick writing tips inspires you to move your story forward!

Maybe you want to write, but you’re not sure what you want to write. Or perhaps you have so many ideas you don’t know where to start. Here are some options for brainstorming ideas. (This is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, so it addresses writing stories for children. If you want to write for adults, simply do the exercises ignoring the "as a child" part.)

Take some time to relax and think about each question. Delve deep into your memories. Take lots of notes, even if you’re not sure yet whether you want to pursue an idea. You can put each idea on a separate index card, or fill a notebook, or start a file folder with scraps of paper. Do whatever works for you.

Find story and article ideas based on your childhood experiences, fears, dreams, etc.:

·  What’s the scariest thing that happened to you as a child? The most exciting? The funniest?

·  What’s the most fun you ever had as a child? What were your favorite activities?

·  What was the hardest thing you had to do as a child?

·  What interested you as a child?

·  When you were a child, what did you wish would happen?



Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Learning to Write by Reading - #amwriting

Chris writes romantic suspense as Kris Bock
I'm on a listserv for readers who are interested in mysteries (DorothyL). Someone recently started a discussion: "Is There a Fiction Book that Helped Teach You How to Write?" I thought my answer might make a good blog post, so here it is.
I've learned more about writing mysteries from the books I put down. Why did I lose interest?

Sometimes the answer is obvious in the first pages – poor writing. But in the last year, I've started a number of books and initially been impressed with the writing quality. But then I quit reading after a few chapters. I usually lose interest for one of two reasons:

First: I simply don't care if the main character succeeds in her goal. In a cozy mystery, the amateur detective has no real reason to be investigating. The crime doesn't directly affect her or her family or friends, and/or there's no reason to think the police can't take care of things. 

But it's not enough to make the detective a professional, so it's her job to investigate. The stakes can still feel low if there isn't some reason for me to be interested in seeing this particular crime solved, right now. 

That's not to say the stakes have to include the main character being accused of the crime. In the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, Brother Cadfael cares deeply about justice and protecting the innocent, even people he barely knows. And so, as a reader, I care. 

In a similar vein, I've always enjoyed Elaine Orr's Jolie Gentil Series. Jolie doesn't always have a good *practical* reason to investigate. But she has a burning desire to understand the truth. This is shown through her thoughts and actions, so it feels authentic to her character, not something tacked on by the author as an excuse for unbelievable behavior. To me that's a stronger motive than the surprisingly common "My horrible ex-husband has been accused of a crime, so I guess I have to get involved." 

Second: Not enough happens. One historical mystery I tried recently started out well, with dramatic action and strong writing. But this was followed by several chapters where the story didn't progress. A couple of new characters were introduced. They talked with the MC about topics that had already been discussed. Nobody had new information. The big mystery was barely acknowledged. The MC hadn't committed to learning more about it yet. Finally I got so bored I gave up. Perhaps things would've picked up again in a few chapters … but by that point, I didn't care enough to wait.

When I critique manuscripts, I often wind up explaining the necessity of having goal-motivation-conflict in every chapter. 

Another way to keep your story moving is to focus on your main character's goal in each scene. Even if we know what the overall goal is (gather warriors in order to battle the monster), remind the reader at the beginning of each scene what the scene goal is – and what the main character has to do to achieve it. You can also remind the reader why it is important (motivation) and why it will be difficult (conflict). This way, the reader is waiting to see if the main character will succeed or fail. It's also a way for you to check that your main character is staying active, and not just tagging along for the ride.

Sometimes writers know what the goal is, and why it's important, but forget to put it on the page. Sometimes writers get caught up in their own writing and don't realize they haven't had any conflict in a while. Sometimes writers haven't gotten close to their main characters, so the characters' behavior doesn't seem to come naturally from their personality. 

Writing is hard! It's why I recommend making an outline after writing a draft, to see what's really in the story rather than what you meant to include and thought you included. (More on that here.) It's the key to the revision method I discuss in Advanced Plotting.


The Plot Outline Exercise is designed to help a writer work with a completed manuscript to identify and fix plot weaknesses. It can also be used to help flesh out an outline. 

Additional articles address specific plot challenges, such as getting off to a fast start, propping up a sagging middle, building to a climax, and improving your pacing. A dozen guest authors share advice from their own years of experience.

More on this topic: 

Channeling The Reader’s Brain: What We Expect of Every Story, from Fiction University: The protagonist should want something, fear something, struggle, and change. 

The Two Things Every Novel Needsby James Scott Bell, from Crime Fiction Collective: Conflict and Suspense.

Four Questions To Ask When Your Writing Is Stuck, from Writer Unboxed: Quick overview on goals, motivation, conflict, and character change.

Ask an Editor with Theresa Stevens, from Romance University: A first-page critique discussing goals, motivation, and conflict.

Worrying Isn't Action by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com: "...use worry to amp up tension and raise stakes and definitely include it as Interiority. But remember that you need to balance it well with external conflict, or you risk your character…just sitting there." 

Chris Eboch is the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Remember the magic of bedtime stories? When you write for children, you have the most appreciative audience in the world. But to reach that audience, you need to write fresh, dynamic stories, whether you’re writing rhymed picture books, middle grade mysteries, edgy teen novels, nonfiction, or something else.