Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Writing Nonfiction Books for Children: Market Research for #NaPiBoWriWee

#NaPiBoWriWee - National Picture Book Writing Week – is coming up, May 1-7. Perhaps you already have some ideas from STORYSTORM (formerly known as Picture Book Idea Month). If your ideas include nonfiction topics, you’ll need a good understanding of what editors are buying. Even if you are writing purely for your own enjoyment, or to share your memories with your family, studying other children’s literature will make you a better writer. It may also inspire new ideas!

The following is excerpted and adapted from You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

Hit the Library

Maybe you are already an avid reader of recent children’s nonfiction. If so, great! If not, it’s time to start. You’ll learn a lot and get to enjoy wonderful stories at the same time. The library is an excellent place to explore children’s lit, but make sure you look for recent books or magazines. Styles have changed over the years, so it’s best to focus on books published in the last five years.

Try keeping notes on what you read, if you don’t already. Did you enjoy the book? Why or why not? What aspects did you think worked well, and what could have been stronger? The patterns you pick up will tell you something about the children’s book industry, but they’ll tell you even more about yourself. Maybe you are attracted to humorous articles for younger kids. Or perhaps you love picture book biographies with poetic language. If you are going to write, why not write what you love to read?

If you want to write for publication, you can also start researching agents and publishers here. When you read books you love, or ones that seem similar to your work, make a note of the publisher. You may also be able to identify the author’s agent in the acknowledgments, or from the author’s website. This will help you learn which publishers are producing what type of books. When you have something appropriate to submit, you’ll have a list of agents or publishers that are suitable.

Book Markets

Are you most interested in picture books? There are important differences between a picture book and an article, so you need to know which you are really writing and all the elements a picture book needs!

To prepare to write a picture book, you might review several of your favorite books, or see what’s new at the library or bookstore. It wouldn’t hurt to check out some of those magazines as well. They’re still a good source for understanding the interests and reading abilities of children at different ages. Plus, you might try comparing some magazine stories and some picture books to see if you can identify the differences.

Briefly, picture books are usually under 1000 words, often under 500 words, although nonfiction picture books may be up to 2500 words or so. They should have at least 12 different scenes that can be illustrated. Look for similar books at the library or bookstore and see who publishes them.

You’ll also find nonfiction in Easy Reader books, which are designed to help kids learn to read. They use simple vocabularies and short sentences, appropriate to a particular reading level. They may be a few hundred words long or several thousand words, depending on the reading level. Often they have a few illustrations, maybe one per chapter. Some publishers specialize in this kind of work, while others do not produce these books at all. They may also be called early readers, early chapter books, beginning readers, and so forth. For more on this kind of book, see Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books, by Nancy Sanders.

Educational nonfiction, typically aimed at the school market, covers all school ages up through high school. Topics are usually chosen by the publisher based on what schools need. If you are interested in this kind of writing, the process is a bit different – you’ll probably need to submit a resume and writing samples instead of a manuscript or proposal. Then the publisher will contact you when/if they have a project appropriate for your skills and interests. You can submit new material every year or two when you have an expanded resume or fresh writing samples. You can still identify these publishers and get a feel for their preferred style by browsing books in the library.

Think about how to organize your notes so they’ll be useful in the future. Should you keep a reading notebook, set up a spreadsheet, or use color-coded index cards? Find a system that works for you.

Market listings:

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market

Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers

Book Markets for Children’s Writers

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) provides members with THE BOOK, which includes market surveys and directories for agents. The quarterly SCBWI Bulletin provides market updates.


Stop by next Wednesday for more advice on writing work for hire educational nonfiction – or subscribe to get posts automatically and never miss a post. You can use the Subscribe or Follow by E-Mail buttons to the right, or add http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/ to Feedly or another reader.

You can get the extended version of this essay, and a lot more, in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Middles: Keep Your Novel Moving

With a brother who writes screenplays and teaches script writing, it's no surprise that I sometimes include script writing advice on this blog.

Because my local SCBWI group is talking about "maddening middles" this month, let's consider what movies have to teach us about keeping readers turning the pages through the middle of our novels.

Consider each scene in your novel. How can you make it bigger, more dramatic?

“Imagine the worst thing that could happen, and force the issue,” says Don Hewitt, who co-wrote the English-language screenplay for the Japanese animated film Spirited Away with his wife Cindy.

My brother Doug stresses the effectiveness of “set pieces—the big, funny moment in a comedy, the big action scene in an action movie. The ‘wow’ moments that audiences remember later. Novelists can give readers those scenes they’ll remember when they put the book down.”

Yet even in big scenes, you must balance action and dialogue. Long action scenes can be dull without dialog or characterization. “When you look at the page, it shouldn’t be blocky with action,” says Paul Guay, who co-wrote screenplays for Liar, Liar, The Little Rascals and Heartbreakers.

Hewitt adds, “Try to be as economical as you can with the action, and as precise as you can. Break it up with specific dialogue to strengthen it.”

Don’t let dialog take over either. Any long conversation where nothing happens is going to be boring. David Steinberg, who wrote the screenplay for Slackers and co-wrote American Pie 2, says, “Movies are about people doing things, not about people talking about doing things.” Even in comedies, he says, dialogue must be relevant to the plot. “Dialogue is funny because of the situation, not because it’s inherently funny.” The same goes for novels, too.

So throughout your novel, make sure you have a mixture of action and dialogue. And make sure both move the story forward. If your character is alone during the scene, you can use his or her thoughts in place of dialogue.

Think Movie

Try thinking cinematically as you sketch out a scene. Imagine your book made into a movie. Will it be a bunch of talking heads, people sitting around in an ordinary setting having a conversation? Try putting your characters someplace interesting instead, and maybe even giving them something to do while they talk.

In the original version of Sweet Home Alabama, Doug set some dialogue scenes in the main character’s parents’ trailer. But during filming, the scenes were shot at a Civil War re-enactment, which added Southern flavor to the movie. Apply this approach to your novel. “In a novel, you can get away with just people talking,” Doug says. “But give people something more interesting to do while talking than just drinking coffee. It makes the scene more alive.”

Here’s an example from my middle grade novel, The Eyes of Pharaoh. Reya, a 16-year-old soldier, warned his friends Seshta and Horus that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads. He promised to tell the more at their next meeting. Seshta has been waiting anxiously:

At last Seshta reached the dock. Horus sat on the end of it, trailing a fishing line in the water.

Seshta trotted across the wooden boards. “Where’s Reya?”

“I’m glad to see you, too. Reya’s not here yet.”

“Oh.” Seshta flopped onto her back and stared at the sky. A hawk soared in lazy circles overhead. Seshta remembered her dream, and her ba fluttered in her chest. She rolled over and stared at the river.

Horus watched his fishing line, seeming content to sit there forever. Downstream, laundrymen sang as they worked at the river’s edge. Two men washed clothes in large tubs, their shaved heads glistening and their loincloths drenched. Two others beat clothes clean on stones, and one spread the garments out to dry.

Seshta sighed. “What do you think of his story yesterday? His big secret?”

“Probably just showing off to impress you. But with Reya, you never know.”

“Well, we’ll find out when he gets here. He’s not putting me off today!”

Horus glanced at her and smiled. “No.”

“I wish he’d hurry.” She slapped out a rhythm on the dock. “This is boring.”

“He’ll be here when he gets here. You can’t change time.”

Seshta sighed. Once she knew Reya was safe, she could curse him for distracting her and get back to more important matters. She needed to concentrate on dancing, not waste her time worrying about strange foreigners.

Ra, the sun god, carried his fiery burden toward the western horizon. Horus caught three catfish. A flock of ducks flew away quacking. Dusk settled over the river, dimming shapes and colors until they blurred to gray. The last fishing boats pulled in to the docks, and the fishermen headed home.

But Reya never came.
__________

This is a slow scene by its nature, because they’re waiting for something that doesn’t happen. But the unusual setting makes it more interesting. Hopefully you can see the scene, and you get a feeling for the characters’ different personalities by the way they behave in that situation. We get character, setting, and plot all together.


Visit Doug’s fabulous scriptwriting blog, Let’s SchmoozeDoug's books, The Three Stages of Screenwriting and The Hollywood Pitching Bible, have great advice for novelists as well. Learn more or link to retailers at Screenmaster Books.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. 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. 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.

Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Resources for Children’s Book Writers

This is the handout for my workshop at the UNM writing conference.

Books: The Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, by Harold Underdown, explains everything from the genres to how to find a publisher. Underdown also has FAQs about the children’s book industry, and publisher updates, on his website. The Way to Write for Children, by Joan Aiken, is also recommended.  The Writer’s Bookstore and Writer’s Digest offer books on writing for children and basic writing craft, plus market guides.

You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, by Chris Eboch, offers an overview on writing for young people. Learn how to find ideas and develop those ideas into stories, articles, and books. Understand the basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme – and some advanced elements, along with how to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts. Finally, learn about editing your work and getting critiques.

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.

Chris Eboch’s Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This really is helping me a lot. It's written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!


The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators  (first year $95, then $80 yearly) provides informational publications on the art and business of writing and illustrating. SCBWI also publishes a bimonthly newsletter and offers awards and grants for published works and works in progress. SCBWI members can join discussion boards. The SCBWI has an annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles and events around the US and the world. Learn more, or find out what’s happening in your region, via the organization’s main website.

SCBWI-New Mexico, our regional branch, sends out weekly e-lerts (email notices) about our programs, other local events, and industry information. Contact elerts to get on the mailing list. We also put out a quarterly newsletter on the web site. Visit the region’s page at the organization’s main website for activities and our latest newsletter.

We have monthly Shop Talks in Albuquerque, the second Tuesday of each month, from 7-8:30 at North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center. These feature short workshops or discussions, followed by social time. Topics and location are announced through the e-lerts.

A peer critique group meets on the third Saturday of the month, from 1:30 to 3:30 at the Erna Ferguson Library community room.


Helpful blogs:
  • KidLit.com: Agent Mary Kole runs this blog for readers and writers of children’s literature.


Critiques by Chris: $2 per page for novels; $40 for works up to 1000 words (picture books, stories, or articles). This provides a critique letter of editorial comments on plot, characterization, flow, language, etc. (1-2 pages for short work, 4-6 pages for novels), plus notes written on the manuscript. Learn more at her website “for writers” page.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. 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. 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.

Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Turning an Idea into Story: Building the Middle

The middle of a story is a trouble spot for many writers. Maybe it feels slow, maybe it feels boring, maybe you can't even figure out what happens next.

A good middle should be filled with complications.

If a character solves his problem or reaches his goal easily, the story is boring. To keep tension high, you need complications. For short stories, try the “rule of three” and have the main character try to solve the problem three times. The first two times, he fails and the situation worsens.

Remember: the situation should worsen. If things stay the same, he still has a problem, but the tension is flat. If his first attempts make things worse, tension rises.

For novels, you may have even more attempts and failures. In my first Haunted book, The Ghost on the Stairs, I made sure each ghost encounter felt more dangerous. As Tania tries to get closer to the ghost in order to help her, Jon worries that she will go too far and be injured or even killed. With enough variety, you can sustain this kind of tension indefinitely (witness the ongoing battle between Harry and Voldemort in the seven-book Harry Potter series).

Worse and Worser
You can worsen the situation in several ways. The main character’s actions could make the challenge more difficult. In my children’s mystery set in ancient Egypt, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a young temple dancer searches for her missing friend. But when she asks questions at the barracks where he was a soldier, she attracts dangerous attention from his enemies.

The villain may also raise the stakes. In my Mayan historical drama, The Well of Sacrifice, the main character escapes a power-hungry high priest. He threatens to kill her entire family, forcing her to return to captivity.

Secondary characters can cause complications, too, even if they are not “bad guys.” In The Ghost on the Stairs, the kids’ mother decides to spend the day with them, forcing them to come up with creative ways to investigate the ghost while under her watchful eyes.

Finally, the main character may simply run out of time. At her first attempt, she had a week. At her second attempt, she had a day. Those two attempts have failed, and now she has only an hour! That creates tension.

• For each turning point in the story, brainstorm 10 things that could happen next. Then pick the one that is the worst or most unexpected, so long as it is still believable for the story.

In the coming weeks, I'll have more advice on building an exciting and dramatic middle. 

Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. 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. 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.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Editing Your Novel during #NaNoEdMo – Fine Tuning

In honor of #NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month), I'm sharing some advice from You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and TeenagersLast week I offered advice on “big picture” editing. Once you're comfortable with the overall structure and content of your novel, it's time to consider the details.

Fine Tuning
 
Once you are confident that your characters, plot, structure, and pacing are working, you can dig into the smaller details. At this stage, make sure that your timeline works and your setting hangs together. Create calendars and maps to keep track of when things happen and where people go.

Then polish, polish, polish.

Bill Peschel, author of Sherlock Holmes parodies and other books for adults, and a former newspaper copy editor, says, “Reading with a critical eye reveals weak spots in grammar, consistently misspelled words, and a reliance on ‘crutch words’ [unnecessary and overused words] such as simply, basically, or just. While it can be disheartening to make the same mistakes over and over again, self-editing can boost your ego when you become aware that you’re capable of eliminating them from your work. It takes self-awareness, some education, and a willingness to admit to making mistakes.”

This stage of editing can be time-consuming, especially if you are prone to spelling or grammatical errors. “Be systematic,” Peschel says. “Despite all the advice on how to multi-task, the brain operates most efficiently when it’s focusing on one problem at a time. This applies to proofing. You can look for spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar, and your particular weaknesses, just not at the same time. So for effective proofing, make several passes, each time focusing on a different aspects.”

One pass might focus only on dialogue. “Read just the dialogue out loud,” editor Jodie Renner suggests, “maybe role-playing with a buddy or two. Do the conversations sound natural or stilted? Does each character sound different, or do they all sound like the author?”

Wordiness (using more words than necessary) is a big problem for many writers, so make at least one pass focused exclusively on tightening. “Make every word count,” Renner advises. “Take out whole sentences and paragraphs that don’t add anything new or drive the story forward. Take out unnecessary little words, most adverbs and many adjectives, and eliminate clichés.” Words you can almost always cut include very, really, just, sort of, kind of, a little, rather, started to, began to, then. To pick up the pace in your manuscript, try to cut 20% of the text on every page, simply by looking for unnecessary words or longer phrases that can be changed to shorter ones.

Make additional passes looking for grammar errors, missing words, and your personal weak areas. For example, if you know you tend to overuse “just,” use the “Find” option in a program like Microsoft Word to locate that word and eliminate it when possible.

Even if you’re not an expert editor, you may be able to sense when something is wrong. “Trust your inner voice,” when you get an uneasy feeling, Peschel says. “It can be something missing, something wrong, something clunky, and if you stick to it – read it out loud, read it backwards, look at it from a distance – the mistake should declare itself.”

Fool Your Brain

By this point, you’ve read your manuscript dozens of times. This can make it hard to spot errors, since you know what is supposed to be there. Several tricks can help you see your work with fresh eyes.

Peschel says, “Reading the same prose in the same font can cause the eye to skate over mistakes, so change it up. Boost the size or change the color of the text or try a different font. Use free programs such as Calibre or Scrivener to create an EPUB or MOBI file that can be read on an ebook reader.”

Renner also recommends changing your font. Print your manuscript on paper if you are used to working on the computer screen. Finally, move away from your normal working place to review your manuscript. “These little tricks will help you see the manuscript as a reader instead of as a writer,” she says.

“An effective way to check the flow of your story is to read it aloud or have someone read it to you,” freelance editor Linda Lane notes. “Better yet, record your story so you can play it back multiple times if necessary. Recruiting another person to do this will give you a better idea of what a reader will see.” Some software, such as MS Word 2010, has a text-to-voice feature to provide a read aloud.

Lane adds, “If recording your story yourself, run your finger just below each line as you read to catch omitted or misspelled words and missing commas, quote marks, and periods. Also, enunciate clearly and ‘punctuate’ as you read, pausing slightly at each comma and a bit longer at end punctuation. While this won’t catch every error, it will give you a good sense of flow, highlight many shortcomings, and test whether your dialogue is smooth and realistic.”

Some people even recommend reading your manuscript backwards, sentence by sentence. While this won’t help you track the flow of the story, it focuses attention on the sentence level. Finally, certain computer programs and web platforms are designed to identify spelling and grammar errors, and in some cases even identify clichés. While these programs are not recommended for developmental editing (when you’re shaping the story), they can be an option for later polishing. (They can also make mistakes, though, so don’t trust Microsoft Word’s spelling & grammar check to be right about everything.)

How Much Is Enough?

How much editing you need to do depends on your goals for the story. If you simply want to write down the bedtime stories you tell your children as a family record, a spelling error or two doesn’t matter too much. If you are going to submit work to a publisher, you need to be more careful. Some editors and agents say they will stop reading if they find errors in the first few pages, or more than one typo every few pages. If you plan to self-publish, most experts advise hiring a professional editor to help you shape the story and a professional proofreader to make sure the book doesn’t go out with typos. Weak writing and other errors could cause readers to get annoyed and leave bad reviews.

Looking at all the steps to successful self-editing may be daunting, but break them down into pieces, take a step at a time, and don’t rush your revisions. “This whole process could easily take several months,” Renner says. “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by putting your manuscript out too soon.”

Each time you go through this process you’ll be developing your skills, making the next time easier. “Like anything else, self-editing becomes easier the more you do it,” Peschel says. “When it becomes second-nature, you’ll have made a big leap toward becoming a professional writer.”

Stop by next Wednesday for final tips on editing – or subscribe to get posts automatically and never miss a post. You can use the Subscribe buttons to the right, or add http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/ to Feedly or another reader.

You can get the extended version of this essay, and a lot more, in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Advanced Plotting also has advice on editing novels.

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with over 30 traditionally published books for children. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page. Sign up for Chris’s Workshop Newsletter for classes and critique offers.


Chris also writes novels of suspense and romance for adults under the name Kris Bock; read excerpts at www.krisbock.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

Editing Your Novel during #NaNoEdMo – The Big Picture

In honor of #NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month), I'm sharing some advice from You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

The book market is more competitive than ever. Editors with mile-high submission piles can afford to choose only exceptional manuscripts. Authors who self-publish must produce work that is equal to releases from traditional publishers. And regardless of their publishing path, authors face competition from tens of thousands of other books. Serious authors know they must extensively edit and polish their manuscripts.

For many writers, a new manuscript is their “baby.” You love it, and it may be hard to think of it as anything less than perfect. But you wouldn’t send your newborn baby out into the world and expect it to survive on its own. You help your children grow up, teaching them, gently correcting misbehavior, and helping them express their wonderful selves. As your children grow older, you can step back a bit and see them as individuals in their own right, separate from you. Once they are grown, you can send them off into the world, perhaps still worrying at times but with confidence that they can survive on their own.

Editing a manuscript is similar. You need to distance yourself enough from the work that you can see it for what it is – not what you dreamed it would be, but what is actually on the page. Then you guide and shape it, perhaps with help from others. You release it into the world when you’re confident the story can survive on its own, without you there to explain or defend it.

The Big Picture

Wading through hundreds of novel pages trying to identify every problem at once is intimidating and hardly effective. Even editing a picture book, short story, or article can be overwhelming if you try to address every issue at once. The best self-editors break the editorial process into steps. They also develop practices that allow them to step back from the manuscript and see it as a whole.

Editor Jodie Renner recommends putting your story away for a few weeks after your first complete draft. During that time, share it with a critique group or beta readers. (Beta readers give feedback on an unpublished draft. They are not necessarily writers, so they give a reader’s opinion.) Ask your advisors to look only at the big picture: “where they felt excited, confused, curious, delighted, scared, worried, bored, etc.,” Renner says. During your writing break, you can also read books, articles, or blog posts to brush up on your craft techniques.

Then collect the feedback and make notes, asking for clarification as needed. Consider moving everyone’s comments onto a single manuscript for simplicity. This also allows you to see where several people have made similar comments, and to choose which suggestions you will follow. At this point, you are only making notes, not trying to implement changes.

In my book Advanced Plotting, I suggest making a chapter by chapter outline of your manuscript so you can see what you have without the distraction of details. For each scene or chapter, note the primary action, important subplots, and the mood or emotions. By getting this overview of your novel down to a few pages, you can go through it quickly looking for trouble spots. You can compare your outline to The Hero’s Journey or scriptwriting three-act structure to see if those guidelines inspire any changes. (Get this Plot Arc Exercise as a free downloadable Word document on my website.)

As you review your scenes, pay attention to anything that slows the story. Where do you introduce the main conflict? Can you eliminate your opening chapter(s) and start later? Do you have long passages of back story or explanation that aren’t necessary? Does each scene have conflict? Are there scenes out of order or repetitive scenes that could be cut? Make notes on where you need to add new scenes, delete or condense boring scenes, or move scenes.

Colored highlighter pens (or the highlight function on a computer) can help you track everything from point of view changes to clues in a mystery to thematic elements. Highlight subplots and important secondary characters to make sure they are used throughout the manuscript in an appropriate way. Cut or combine minor characters who aren’t necessary.

Using Your Notes

Once you have an overview of the changes you want, revise the manuscript for these big picture items: issues such as plot, structure, characterization, point of view, and pacing. Renner recommends you then reread the entire manuscript, still focusing on the big picture. Depending on the extent of your changes, you may want to repeat this process several times.

During this stage of editing, consider market requirements if you plan to submit the work to publishers. Is your word count within an appropriate range for the genre? Are you targeting a publisher that has specific requirements? If you’re writing a romance, will the characters’ arcs and happy ending satisfy those fans? If you have an epic fantasy, is the world building strong and fresh? If your thriller runs too long, can it be broken into multiple books, or can you eliminate minor characters and subplots?

Once you’ve done all you can, you may want to hire an editor. You could also send the manuscript to new beta readers or critique partners. People who have not read the manuscript before might be better at identifying how things are working now. (See my blog posts on Critiques for tips on when and how to use family and friends, other writers, and professional editors for feedback.)


Editing Tips:

Don’t try to edit everything at once. Make several passes, looking for different problems. Start big, then focus in on details.

Try writing a one- or two-sentence synopsis. Define your goal. Do you want to produce an action-packed thriller? A laugh-out-loud book that will appeal to preteen boys? A richly detailed historical novel about a character’s internal journey? Identifying your goal can help you make decisions about what to cut and what to keep.

Next make a scene list, describing what each scene does.
·     Do you need to make major changes to the plot, characters, setting, or theme (fiction) or the focus of the topic (nonfiction)?
·     Does each scene fulfill the synopsis goal? How does it advance plot, reveal character, or both?
·     Does each scene build and lead to the next? Are any redundant? If you cut the scene, would you lose anything? Can any secondary characters be combined or eliminated?
·     Does anything need to be added or moved? Do you have a length limit or target?

·     Can you increase the complications, so that at each step, more is at stake, there’s greater risk or a better reward? If each scene has the same level of risk and consequence, the pacing is flat and the middle sags.

You can get the extended version of this essay, and a lot more, in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Advanced Plotting also has advice on editing novels.

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with over 30 traditionally published books for children. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.

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

Chris also writes novels of suspense and romance for adults under the name Kris Bock; read excerpts at www.krisbock.com.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ancient Egypt Speaks to Kids Today: #History and Mystery for the Middle Grade Classroom

Today I'm celebrating the re-release of my middle grade mystery set in ancient Egypt, The Eyes of Pharaoh, via Spellbound River Press. I've been reaching out to social studies teachers, and we've already had an order for 290 copies (I'm assuming from a school district)! If you are a teacher or librarian interested in finding out if this novel would work in your school, contact me through my website to get a free digital copy for review.

The Eyes of Pharaoh by Chris Eboch: This mystery set in 1350 BCE Egypt, for ages nine and up, introduces young readers to an ancient world. The dangers and intrigues of the time echo in the politics of today, while the power of friendship will touch hearts both young and old.

The Eyes of Pharaoh is ideal for use in elementary and middle school classrooms or by homeschooling students studying ancient Egypt. Suzanne Borchers says, “I teach a gifted class of fourth and fifth graders. Using this historical fiction is a window into Ancient Egypt—its people, culture, and beliefs. My class enjoyed doing research on Egyptian gods and goddesses, and hieroglyphs. Projects extended their knowledge of this fascinating time and place. I also highly recommend it for its fast paced plot, interesting and ‘real’ characters, and excellent writing.”

To help teachers in the classroom, extensive Lesson Plans provide material aligned to the Common Core State Standards. View them here.

The Eyes of Pharaoh is available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book via book retailers and distributors, including Amazon.

Chris Eboch is the author of more than 40 books for young people, including The Well of Sacrifice. This historical drama set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala is used in many schools as supplemental fiction when students learn about the Maya. Kirkus Reviews said, “The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable and determined heroine.”


The Eyes of Pharaoh is sure to reach readers in the same way. Ms. Eboch’s other titles include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show; the fictionalized biographies Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker and Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier (part of Simon & Schuster’s Childhood of Famous Americans series); and many nonfiction titles.

Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or my Amazon page.