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Monday, November 9, 2015

PiBoIdMo: Developing Your Picture Book Ideas

Last week, I discussed Finding the Seeds of Stories for Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). It's fine if you think up quick, basic ideas that need a lot of development – you’ve still met the challenge! But maybe you want to spend a little more time developing your idea now. Or you could bookmark this post or print it out to use later, when you go back to your favorite ideas and develop them.

(The following is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. The book is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. That book and Advanced Plotting will provide lots of help as you write and edit.)

Developing an Idea

Once you have your idea, it’s time to develop it into a story or novel. 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.

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.

·    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.

Nonfiction 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.

Take a look at one of your PiBoIdMo ideas. Can you start developing it by thinking about story structure in this way?

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

AdvancedPlotting is available in print or ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or in various ebook formats at Smashwords.

Monday, November 2, 2015

PiBoIdMo: Finding the Seeds of Stories

November is Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). The goal is to come up with a new picture book idea every day. Impossible? You'll find lots of idea starters and writing prompts on the PiBoIdMo site and elsewhere.

Here are some more options for brainstorming ideas. (The following is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. The book is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. That book and Advanced Plotting will provide lots of help as you write and edit.)

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?

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?

Other questions to consider:

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 nonfiction book 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?

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?

What do you see in the news? Is there a timely topic that could make a good article? If you read about kids doing something special, could you turn it into a profile for a children’s magazine? (This wouldn't work as well for a picture book, but I’m being flexible with the concept here.)

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?

Even the phonebook can provide inspiration. Check the Yellow Pages: Could you interview an automotive painter, animal trainer, or architect for a nonfiction book? What would life be like for a child to have parents in that field?

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.

Now start brainstorming and have fun!

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

AdvancedPlotting is available in print or ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or in various ebook formats at Smashwords.

Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Developing Your Idea

Last week, I discussed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), both of which take place over the month of November. If you plan to participate, it helps to do some prep!

Here are some tips for developing your idea. (If you are doing NaNoWriMo, try to do this before you start writing in November. For PiBoIdMo, bookmark this post or print it out so you can use it as you brainstorm ideas next month.)

(The following is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. The book is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. That book and Advanced Plotting will provide lots of help as you write and edit.)

Developing an Idea

If you have a “great idea,” but can’t seem to go anywhere with it, you probably have a premise rather than a complete story plan. A story should have three parts: beginning, middle, and end (plus title and possibly bonus material). This can be a bit confusing though. Doesn’t every story have a beginning, middle, and end? It has to start somewhere and end at some point, and other stuff is in the middle. Beginning, middle, and end!

Technically, yes, but certain things should happen at those points.

1.   The beginning introduces a character with a problem or a goal.

2.  During the middle of the story, that character tries to solve the problem or reach the goal. He probably fails a few times and has to try something else. Or he may make progress through several steps along the way. He should not solve the problem on the first try, however.

3.  At the end, the main character solves the problem himself or reaches his goal through his own efforts.

You may find exceptions to these standard story rules, but it’s best to stick with the basics until you know and understand them. They are standard because they work!

Cute, but no conflict
Teachers working with beginning writers often see stories with no conflict – no problem or goal. The story is more of a “slice of life.” Things may happen, possibly even sweet or funny things, but the story does not seem to have a clear beginning, middle, and end; it lacks structure. Without conflict, the story is not that interesting.

You can have two basic types of conflict. An external conflict is something in the physical world. It could be a problem with another person, such as a bully at school, an annoying sibling, a criminal, or a fantastical being such as a troll or demon. External conflict would also include problems such as needing to travel a long distance in bad weather.

The other type of conflict is internal. This could be anything from fear of the dark to selfishness. It’s a problem within the main character that she has to overcome or come to terms with.

An internal conflict is often expressed in an external way. If a child is afraid of the dark, we need to see that fear in action. If she’s selfish, we need to see how selfishness is causing her problems. Note that the problems need to affect the child, not simply the adults around her. If a parent is annoyed or frustrated by a child’s behavior, that’s the parent’s problem, not the child’s. The child’s goal may be the opposite of the parent’s; the child may want to stay the same, while the parent wants the child to change.

For stories with internal conflict, the main character may or may not solve the external problem. The child who is afraid of the dark might get over that fear, or she might learn to live with it by keeping a flashlight by her bed. The child who is selfish and doesn’t want to share his toys might fail to achieve that goal. Instead, he might learn the benefits of sharing.

However the problem is resolved, remember that the child main character should drive the solution. No adults stepping in to solve the problem! In the case where a child and a parent have different goals, it won’t be satisfying to young readers if the parent “wins” by punishing the child. The child must see the benefit of changing and make a decision to do so.

A Story in Four Parts

If “beginning, middle, and end” doesn’t really help you, here’s another way to think of story structure. A story has four main parts: situation, complications, climax, and resolution. You need all of them to make your story work. (This is really the same as beginning, middle, and end, with the end broken into two parts, but the terms may be clearer.)

The situation should involve an interesting main character with a challenging problem or goal. Even this takes development. Maybe you have a great challenge, but aren’t sure why a character would have that goal. Or maybe your situation is interesting, but it doesn’t actually involve a problem.

For example, I wanted to write about a brother and sister who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. The girl can see ghosts, but the boy can’t. That gave me the characters and situation, but no problem or goal. Goals come from need or desire. What did they want that could sustain a series?

Tania feels sorry for the ghosts and wants to help them, while keeping her gift a secret from everyone but her brother. Jon wants to help and protect his sister, but sometimes he feels overwhelmed by the responsibility. Now we have characters with problems and goals. The story is off to a good start. (This became the four-book Haunted series.)


·   Make sure your idea is specific and narrow. Focus on an individual person and situation, not a universal concept. For example, don’t try to write about “racism.” Instead, write about one character facing racism in a particular situation.

·   The longer the story, the higher the stakes needed to sustain it. A short story character might want to win a contest; a novel character might need to save the world.

·   Ask why the goal is important to the character. Why does this particular individual desperately want to succeed in this challenge?

·   Ask why this goal is difficult. If reaching the goal is too easy, there is little tension and the story is too short. The goal should be possible, but just barely. It might even seem impossible. The reader should believe that the main character could fail. 

·   Even if your main problem is external, try giving the character an internal flaw that contributes to the difficulty. This adds complications and also makes your character seem more real. For some internal flaws, see the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

·   Test the idea. Change the character’s age, gender, or looks. Change the point of view, setting, external conflict, or internal conflict. Choose the combination that has the most dramatic potential.

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

AdvancedPlotting is available in print or ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or in various ebook formats at Smashwords.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), thousands of people work on writing a rough draft of a novel in a month of November. For those of you who write for younger children, November is also Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). There the goal is to come up with a new picture book idea every day. These challenges may sound intimidating, but they are widely popular.

Why? Well, taking on an intensive challenge for a month has several advantages. The most obvious is that it very quickly gives you material to develop. You can get a jump start on a new novel, or brainstorm a few dozen picture books ideas to pursue (though not all will be worth developing).

The time pressure forces you to put aside your editor and critic hats and instead focus on getting words on paper. This helps some people avoid the insecurity that can come with starting a new project, or the temptation to endlessly edit the first few chapters instead of moving forward. For picture book writers, having a lot of new ideas allows you to choose the best one, so you don’t waste time on a mediocre idea.

It encourages you to schedule writing time – plenty of it, every week. It’s easier to give up TV, reading, and other hobbies for a single month. It’s also easier to get family members to adjust their schedule to yours if you are requesting a favor for a month, not forever. (You may even discover that your family, and the world, can function with less of your attention than you thought. Even if you can’t devote the same amount of time to writing after November, maybe you can carve out some time every week.)

Finally, both challenges have a strong sense of community. You can network with other writers, encourage each other, and find inspiring blog posts or helpful tips to keep you moving for your project.

Are You in?

If you want to be ready to write a novel in November, it’s best to start brainstorming and planning in advance. My next few posts will discuss finding and developing ideas. In November I'll have a couple of posts on PiBoIdMo. For NaNo writers, you can bookmark this site and stop by to check out the writing tips on everything from developing characters to building to a strong climax. (Scroll down to see the labels on the right-hand side.) Then check back in March for editing tips during National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo).

The following is excerpted from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. The book is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. That book and Advanced Plotting will provide lots of help as you write and edit.

Finding Ideas

Ideas are everywhere, including in our own lives. Of course, even the most exciting events may lack important story qualities such as character growth and strong plots. (Those qualities are covered in detail in You Can Write for Children.) Still, personal and family experiences can provide the raw material to be molded into publishable stories and articles.

Amy Houts wrote Down on the Farm, about a girl on a farm vacation who wants to ride a horse but must do chores first. Houts was inspired by her own experiences, though not by a specific episode. “I was one of those horse-crazy girls,” she says. “I knew how a girl could long to ride a horse.”

Sometimes the smallest nugget can inspire a story. Susan Uhlig says, “My teen daughters and friends went on a mission trip to do a building project. The man overseeing the project was disappointed that there were no boys. I played the writer game of ‘what if?’ What if the man wouldn’t let the team stay because they were all girls? That developed into a short story very easily – what he would say, my main character girl would do, how the problem would be solved, etc.” The story sold to Brio.

Personally, I sold a story to Highlights based on the experience of finding frogs all over my neighborhood after a rainstorm. They also bought a historical story about the Mayan ballgame. That story, and my Mayan historical novel The Well of Sacrifice, were inspired by visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico and Central America.

Realistic, Not Real

Sometimes real life translates well into fiction – though a twist may make it more fun for children. Leslie Helakoski says, “My picture book, Big Chickens, is about all the things I was afraid of when young and I’d go into the woods with my brothers and sisters. I just turned us all into chickens and played with the language.”

Caroline Hatton drew on school and home memories of growing up in Paris for her middle-grade novel, VĂ©ro and Philippe. Yet she did not simply write a memoir. “I wanted to write about a pet snail because I kept one in a shoebox in my family’s apartment in Paris. But in my real life, my big brother left me and my pet snail alone – not much of a story, is it? So in the book, I made the brother threaten to eat the snail, as escargot.”
Characters and outcomes may also change, Hatton points out. “My brother rigged a thing to scare me in the middle of the night. But in the book, I swapped roles, and it’s the little sister who does it to her big brother. Sharing this with kids makes them howl with the pleasure of revenge.”

Houts adds, “Most of the time I have to twist the reality of an experience so my story can include all the elements of good storytelling: a contrast of characters; a goal the main character strongly desires to reach; and believable obstacles the main character needs to overcome to reach her goal. Time needs to be cut down to a day or two [for a picture book]. That condenses the action and makes the story more focused.”

Author Renee Heiss says, “Use your life story as the skeleton, and then flesh it out with period details, colorful dialogue, and tons of sensory imagery to place your young readers into the time period and setting. It’s not enough to tell what happened; you must show your readers your story and immerse them into your life as if they were a sibling growing up with you.”

Asking friends and family members to share stories can provide ideas, while allowing you to turn the story into your own creation. Uhlig didn’t witness the mission trip firsthand. “That freed me up to create problem, action, dialogue, etc. without being stuck on what really happened,” she says.

You can “borrow” stories from history and the news as well. I found an interesting tidbit in a history of Washington State. A teenage boy had met bank robbers in the woods, and for some reason he told nobody about them. Why? This question, and my imagined answers to it, became my YA survival suspense Bandits Peak.

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

AdvancedPlotting is available in print or ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or in various ebook formats at Smashwords.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Writing and Running: 6 Lessons Learned from Jogging

In honor of the upcoming National Women's Health & Fitness Day, I wanted to share some lessons I learned from running.

In March of 2011 I started jogging. Despite the occasional illness, injury, and ‘I don’t wanna,’ I’m still getting out regularly. On one long and rather tedious solo run, I started making connections between jogging and writing and life.

Get Some Running Buddies

It helps to have inspiration. I started jogging with a Couch to 5K group that met twice a week. Having the regular schedule kept us on track. The program helped us pace ourselves, starting with short runs and frequent walks, and working up to a 45 minute run. We also had an experienced leader to offer advice.

Several of us continued running together after the program ended. I wouldn’t get out there as often if people weren’t waiting for me. I’d be tempted to stop early, if I didn’t have the encouragement of the group. Hey, peer pressure is powerful! You might as well make it work for you. Plus, it’s more fun to run with other people.

A writing retreat is a great place
 to get feedback – and exercise!
For writers, it’s important to find the right peer group for your needs. For many, this is a critique group. They may be large or small, meet in person or online, have open or closed membership, get together weekly or monthly or as needed. Finding a group that suits your needs is invaluable.

Other writers share goals and deadlines, checking in with a friend daily or weekly to report progress. There’s that peer pressure again! Even a non-writing friend can help hold you accountable.

Finally, social groups can provide camaraderie and networking. I live in a small town with a science and engineering college; I know far more computer geeks than writers. But by making monthly trips to Albuquerque to attend a writing meeting, I’ve made many friends who understand what I do. I’ve also made connections by teaching workshops and guest speaking for groups like Sisters in Crime. For those who can’t attend in person, online discussion boards or listserves offer a sense of connection.

New scenery can be inspiring.
It’s Distance, Not Speed

It really is about the journey, not how fast you get there. Pace yourself, and enjoy the journey, or you might burn out along the way. If you can see the end, or at least imagine the cheering crowds and free food, it might give you the extra boost you need to keep going. But take time to enjoy the sights, and the experience will be a lot more fun.

As a writer, don’t focus so much on the response to your query letters. Sure, celebrate successes, and try to learn from disappointments, but put most of your energy into enjoying the journey. (That works for the rest of life, too.)

Robin LaFevers had a post at Writer Unboxed about keeping creative play in your writing.

It's okay to rest – but not for too long.
But Keep Moving

A slow pace may get you there, but if you have a long way to go, you might as well do it running. A marathon will take a lot longer at a stroll than at a jog, even a slow jog. Run when you can, walk when you need a rest, but keep moving. That’s the only way to reach the end.

Take the time you need to learn and practice your writing craft. Do as many drafts as you need to polish your novel. Don’t rush, but do keep working. Write a page a day, and you’ll have a complete draft in a year. It may not be perfect, but it will be more than what you started with.

Practice Makes Perfect, or At Least Lessens the Pain

If you’re training, you need to get out regularly. Running once a month will just leave you sore and frustrated each time, and you won’t see any progress in your fitness.

It’s the same with writing. Establishing habits and sticking to them will keep your mind fit. Writing several times a week will hone your skills and make it easier to get started next time.

Beware of Shortcuts

If I map out a 5K run, but take every shortcut, that could cut the distance down to 3 1/2K. Easier, sure, but that won’t prepare me for running a 10K. It’s the same with life. Whether you’re trying to switch careers, meet the right man or woman, or finish a novel, some shortcuts may help, but others may do more harm than good.

I work with a lot of writing students. The beginners want to know if they’ll get published after taking one course. Nobody wants to spend 10 years learning how to write, but you need to do the work in order to earn the reward at the end. If you beg your friend to send your rough draft to her editor, you’ll blow your chance to make the best use of that connection. If you self publish your work before it’s ready, you’ll waste time that could be better spent working on your craft.

Sometimes the long, hard path is the only one that gets you where you want to go.

Set your goals high and work hard to reach them!
Push Yourself Sometimes

With enough practice, you should get better. When I started jogging, it was a struggle to go for 10 minutes without a break. Six months later, I could make it through 45 minutes without stopping.

And then I plateaued. Jogging had become comfortable, if not easy. Why cause more pain by trying to go farther or faster?

Because that’s the only way to get better. And most likely, it’s the only way to stay interested. Fortunately, one of my jogging partners is great about coming up with new workouts. We add in some sprints one day, do hills another day. We choose different routes on different terrains. Variety keeps it interesting, which makes it easier to work hard.

With my writing, I find that I get bored if I become too comfortable with something. After publishing a dozen children’s books as Chris Eboch, I wanted a change. I tried writing romantic suspense for adults, using the name Kris Bock. This brought new challenges – writing books two or three times as long as what I was used to, exploring romantic subplots, delving deeper into character. I didn’t always get things right the first time, but I became a better writer – and I renewed my interest in writing.

(Janice Hardy blogged about “growing pains” novels, the books we must struggle through in order to grow as writers.)

Are you a writer who runs? Join us for the Writers Who Run retreat August 3-7, 2016, in Fontana Dam, North Carolina.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page.

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with 30+ traditionally published books for children. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots, while You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers offers great insight to beginning and intermediate writers. Learn more at or her Amazon page.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Get Critique Feedback from a Pro

Expert writers often share advice
I’ve released a new book on the craft of writing, called You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. To celebrate the release, I’m sharing a excerpt from the chapter on Critiques. So far I've shared the intro to the chapter and advice on getting feedback from family and friends; discussed some basics about critique groups; shared challenges to watch out for in a critique group, and listed specific character types to watch out for in your critique group, and taking classes to improve your writing. Now let's look at one final option, hiring a professional editor or critiquer.

Hiring a Pro

It’s tempting to stick with trading manuscripts for free, and you may get some excellent feedback that way. However, getting feedback from family, friends, and even other writers might not be enough to perfect your work. Many critique partners won’t want to read your manuscript through multiple revisions. And unless they are experienced writers and writing teachers, critique partners may miss issues a professional editor would catch.

Hiring a pro may provide better advice. You might ask a friend to help you bandage a scraped knee, but if you have a bone sticking out of your leg, you’re going to the hospital. When the situation is serious, professional experience counts, so if you are serious about your writing, consider using a professional editor.

Professional developmental editors can help writers shape their manuscripts. They can help beginning or intermediate writers identify weak spots in their skill sets, acting as a one-on-one tutor. They provide expertise that family and friends, and even critique partners, often lack. A professional editor will prioritize your work because it’s a job.

Some of my critique clients have mentioned that they’ve taken a manuscript through a critique group, but they know it still needs work. They’ve gone as far as they can with critique group help, so they’re turning to a paid critique. If someone is paying me several hundred dollars to critique a novel, I’m going to devote my time to getting it done well and quickly. I’ll dig deep and be as tough – but helpful – as I can be. My novel critique letters typically run five or six single-spaced pages, with comments broken down into categories such as Characters, Setting, Plot (Beginning, Middle, and End), Theme, and Style. Most critique group members don’t have that kind of time, even if they have the skills to identify the problems.

If you aren’t sure if you need professional help, do a trial run with a manuscript you’ve finished. Send out a half dozen queries to agents or editors and see what kind of response you get. I’ve had clients come to me because editors have turned down a manuscript they “didn’t love enough.” This is a good indicator that the idea may be strong, but the writing isn’t there yet. No hired editor can guarantee that your manuscript will ever sell, but a good editor can improve the manuscript and also teach you to be a better writer.

If you are writing purely for your own enjoyment, or to share your work with family and friends, you don’t need to worry about producing something of publishable quality. But if you are writing for publication, and agents or editors don’t seem impressed with your work, a professional critique can teach you a lot.

Preparing for the Edit

Even if you decide to hire a freelancer, you’ll get more from the experience by turning in a draft you’ve already edited. According to freelance editor Linda Lane, “Carefully preparing your manuscript for an editor rather than simply forwarding the latest draft saves dollars, because freelance editors often charge an hourly rate.” (Use the tips in Chapter 14: Editing in You Can Write for Children to revise your manuscript as much as you can on your own.) If you have critique partners, revise based on their feedback as well.

I'm an expert!
Then start looking for a professional editor. However, if you want a professional critique on the content of your book – the plot, characters, overall writing style, and so forth – don’t wait until you think you have a completely polished draft. If it turns out you have major problems with the plot or character development, it’s better to identify those before you’ve gone through 10 drafts and have proofread the whole thing.

Ask other writers for recommendations to editors. Try the SCBWI online discussion boards or local writers’ groups. Make sure the editor has experience with the kind of writing you are doing. Someone who only writes for adults is probably not the best editor for your children’s picture book.

Communicate clearly with a prospective editor to make sure you know what you’re getting. Typically content or developmental editors look at the big picture items. Copy editors and proofreaders can catch inconsistencies and spelling or grammar errors. Start by working with someone who will focus on content, structure, and stylistic weaknesses. Don’t pay someone to fix your typos when you might still have major changes to make. Ask questions or ask for a sample to make sure you are hiring the right editor for your needs.

Professional Editors

This list provides past and present instructors from the Institute of Children’s Literature who critique for a fee.

You can get this whole essay, and a lot more – including a chapter on Advanced Critique Questions – in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

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.

Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Sign up for Chris’s Workshop Newsletter for classes and critique offers.