Monday, January 16, 2017

#STORYSTORM The Parts of a Story or Article for Children

Jan. 1-31 is #STORYSTORM with Tara Lazar. Formerly known as #PiBoIdMo, the challenge is to come up with one new story idea each day of the month. To meet this challenge, it might help to think about what makes a story.

The following is excerpt from You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers

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.)

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 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 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.)

Tips:
 
·   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.
 
·   Ask why the goal is important to the character. 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 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. (I go into more detail on this in a chapter on Characters in the book.)
 
Is your character just sitting there?

·   Even if your main problem is external, give 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.

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.

In this book, you will learn:

How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.
How to find ideas.
How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme.
How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
How to edit your work and get critiques.
Where to learn more on various subjects.

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

Quick and Easy Steps to Finding Story and Article Ideas for #STORYSTORM

Jan. 1-31 is #STORYSTORM with Tara Lazar. Formerly known as #PiBoIdMo, the challenge is to come up with one new story idea each day of the month. How are you doing?

Some writers have no trouble finding ideas, and only need to find enough time to tackle them all. But a couple members of my critique group have wondered what to write next. Sometimes the wellspring of ideas seems empty.

To brainstorm new ideas, sit down with a few sheets of paper and:

•    Make a list of writing genres that you enjoy or would like to try — mysteries, fantasy, nonfiction articles, etc.

•    On a new page, start jotting down your life experiences — jobs you’ve held, hobbies, sports, special interests, places you’ve lived or traveled — from childhood to the present. For example, the summer I spent traveling through Mexico and Central America inspired my Mayan historical drama, The Well of Sacrifice.

•    Add other subjects based on your family and friends’ experiences, anything interesting where you have an "in" for research. Do your kids play soccer? Is your husband a volunteer firefighter? Is one of your friends a graduate student studying lightning? Put it on the list.

•    Now add subjects you would like to explore. If you’ve been meaning to take a Latin dance class or learn about Buddhism, add it to the list.

•    Go back to the list and highlight any subjects that seem especially compelling. For example, my list would include working backstage in high school theater, and working as a glacier guide for a helicopter tour company. Those seem like natural settings for a story, even if I can’t think of a plot yet.

•    Review the list of genres that interest you. Now go back over your highlighted subject list and consider each topic as it could relate to each genre. For example, I could write a fantasy set in the theater, or an action novel about a helicopter guide. Write each of these ideas on a new piece of paper, so you have room for notes.

•    For each of your shortlist ideas, go back through your long list and see if you could add in another topic. Sometimes a single subject isn’t enough for a story or book, but mixing two or more subjects or ideas gives you a more fully fleshed concept. I got this from the late, brilliant children's book author Sid Fleischman. He once read that people born at midnight are supposed to be able to see ghosts. Later, had an idea about pirates who lost their treasure. He put these ideas together into his book The Ghost in the Noonday Sun. So consider moving your interesting subject to a new setting, or making your volunteer firefighter or lightning researcher into the main character.

•    Keep adding to your list. Pay attention to the daily intrigues and surprises, and note them down. One night in Washington state, a friend and I went for a nighttime walk when dozens of little frogs were croaking and hopping along the road. I later sold a story to Highlights magazine about a father and child who explore a rainy night when the frogs were out.

•    Pay attention to news and "human interest" stories as well. I saw an article about a helicopter crash, where everyone survived. I might use that as part of my action novel about the helicopter guide.

•    Don’t neglect nonfiction either. Would any of your subjects make for a lively article? If your kids play soccer, you could write a story about a soccer team. You could also write an article about the history of soccer, a how-to piece about a specific soccer techniques, a profile of a young star, a health article about preventing soccer injuries, or a parenting article about the pros and cons of competition in youth sports.

You might end this exercise with one or more ideas that have you fired up and ready to go. But in some cases, you’ll need more time to develop the concept before you start writing. Next week, I’ll discuss Turning an Idea into a Story. In the meantime, here are two more exercises to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Think about the most exciting, funny or scary thing that has happened to you. Make it into a story, changing the details to make it more dramatic.
  • Ask a friend to tell you something exciting or scary or funny that has happened to him/her. Make it into a story, changing the details to make it more dramatic.

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

Chris Eboch’s 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

Get more advice on finding ideas, developing those ideas, and polishing your manuscripts in You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. If you struggle with plot or suspect your plotting needs work, this book can help. Use the Plot Outline Exercise to identify and fix plot weaknesses. Learn how to get off to a fast start, prop up a sagging middle, build to a climax, improve your pacing, and more.

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!

I just read and—dissected—your well written  book: Advanced Plotting. It’s now highlighted in bright orange and littered with many of those little 3M sticky labels.  GOOD JOB. There are too many just-for-beginners books out there. Yours was a delight.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Genie’s Gift - Middle Grade Novel - for free


The Genie’s Gift is a lighthearted action novel set in the fifteenth-century Middle East, drawing on the mythology of The Arabian Nights.
           
Thirteen-year-old Anise, shy and timid, dreads marrying the man her father chooses for her. Her aunt tells her about the Genie Shakayak, the giver of the Gift of Sweet Speech. He lives high atop Mount Quaf, many weeks’ journey across a barren desert. The way is barred by a dozen dangers and trials. But those few who cross the desert and defeat the guardians of the mountain receive their reward. From that day forward, their words drip like honey from their lips, charming all who hear them, and no one can deny them anything they ask.


Anise is determined to find the genie and ask for the gift, so she can control her own future. But the way is barred by a series of challenges, both ordinary and magical. How will Anise get past a vicious she-ghoul, a sorceress who turns people to stone, and mysterious sea monsters, when she can’t even speak in front of strangers? Will she ever reach the top of Mount Quaf—and if she does, can she convince the Genie to give her the gift?

The Genie’s Gift is available on InstaFreebie for free until January 15. You can download your choice of ePub, mobi, or PDF.

If you enjoy it, please leave an honest review! Reviews help other readers (including teachers and librarians) find great books.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include 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.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

#NewYear Resolution: Polish Your Novel for #NaNoEdMo

Did you do NaNoWriMo? Do your New Year’s resolutions include finishing or editing a novel? I’ll be teaching Advanced Plotting: Keep Those Pages Turning starting January 9, 2017.

ADVANCED PLOTTING: Keep Those Pages Turning by Chris Eboch
START DATE: Monday, January 9, 2017
DURATION: 8 weeks (four classes)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Many books and workshops teach the basics of plotting: conflict, complications, and climax. Now learn advanced techniques that will make a decent plot dynamic. Start with a “grab you by the throat” opening to pull readers into the story. Learn how to pack the plot full by complicating your complications. Control your pacing through sentence and paragraph length. And finally, cliffhanger chapter endings ensure late-night reading under the covers. Learn techniques to make any story or book better. Novelists will benefit from these insights, whether they are just starting out or have years of experience.

Here’s what people have said about my previous workshops:

“Your enthusiasm is contagious, and the sheer amount of knowledge you possess is fantastic.” ~ Nancy Partridge

“Your workshop was the one I got the most useful information from.” ~ Donna J. Barland

“Chris had a very detailed and extensive lecture with many great tips.” ~ Paula Yoo

“Chris is hands-down one of the best author-speakers we’ve ever had. The comments on her were full of grateful praise.” ~ Robin Koontz, SCBWI Oregon retreat leader

If you’re interested in ADVANCED PLOTTING: Keep Those Pages Turning, check out the entire schedule and get more information here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Improve your writing next year! #HolidaysSavings on writing guides

Did you get an Amazon gift card recently? Or are you thinking about New Year's Resolutions that include starting to write, getting back to writing, writing more, or writing better? Treat yourself to a writing guide - on sale!

On Sale
You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers

The paperback version of this writing guide has been marked down from $12.99 to $9.99. It’s also available for the Kindle, or you can read it for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I have two children’s picture books on my computer, and, after reading this book, I know what I need to do to make them better. 

This is a terrific resource book for anyone who has considered writing for children. Each chapter has a tip section as well as specific resources, concrete examples, and easy to understand explanation of terms and topics. Excellent book!

 A definite “winner” in the “how-to-write” book library.

Grab a copy for aspiring writers you know, or put it on your wish list!

On Sale

If you know writers who write for adults, or who could use something more advanced, try Advanced Plotting. Again, the paperback version of this writing guide has been marked down from $11.99 to $9.99.

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!

I just read and—dissected—your well written book: Advanced Plotting. It’s now highlighted in bright orange and littered with many of those little 3M sticky labels. GOOD JOB. There are too many just-for-beginners books out there. Yours was a delight.

Advanced Plotting is helping me to be more focused, to stop and ask the right questions, to dig deeper.

See Chris’s books at Amazon, B&N/Nook, Smashwords or IndieBound.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Mad Monk's Treasure, Romantic Suspense #99c Sale 12/22-12/29

Did you get a new Kindle or an Amazon gift card recently? Time to fill up your device! Here’s an option for only $.99. (If you got a KDP Select membership, you’ll find many of my books there – free for you to read with your membership.)

The Mad Monk’sTreasure

Romantic Suspense #99c Sale Dec. 22-29

The lost Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends—a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

Erin isn’t sure she can trust Drew with her heart, but she’ll need his help to track down the treasure. She heads into the New Mexico wilderness with her brainy best friend Camie and a feisty orange cat. The wilderness holds its own dangers, from wild animals to sudden storms. Plus, the sinister men hunting Erin are determined to follow her all the way to the treasure, no matter where the twisted trail leads. Erin won’t give up an important historical find without a fight, but is she ready to risk her life—and her heart?

“The story has it all - action, romance, danger, intrigue, lost treasure, not to mention a sizzling relationship....”

“Great balance of history, romance, and adventure. Smart romance with an “Indiana Jones” feel.”

“Well-written with an attention to detail that allowed me to picture exactly in my head how a scene looked and played out.” 


Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and 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.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Formatting Print Interiors for Self-Publishing

I write a column for the SCBWI Bulletin with tips on self-publishing children’s books. The winter Bulletin includes my column on interior design for print books. Because I did not have enough space to include instructions for formatting using Microsoft Word, I’m including some detail here. Although, after writing all this, I found some other online sources that are even better. So you may want to skim over my instructions, and then click on the first couple of links below. See which one looks like the best fit for your learning style.

Microsoft Word is an adequate tool for doing the interior layout for novels with no or minimal interior images. (Professional designers generally prefer Adobe InDesign, but it’s very expensive. You probably already have Word.) The process is not necessarily easy or intuitive, so schedule some time, and take a break if you’re getting frustrated. You may also want to take notes on any tweaks you need to make for your preferences or your system. That way you’ll have those instructions for the next book you format.

I’m currently using Windows 10, but these instructions should work for most recent versions of Word.

Basic Setup

First of all, save a new version of your manuscript to format for print, because you will not want all these things in the version you use for the e-book.

Start by setting up your page size (equal to the book’s trim size) and your margins:

Under the “Page Layout” tab, click on Size and then choose the size you want your print book to be. Five or 5 1/2 inches wide is good for a children’s novel and no more than eight inches high.

Mirror margins mean I can put page numbers at the outsides
and different headings (name on left, title on right)
Next click on Margins– Custom Margins – Multiple Pages – Mirror Margins. Your interior margin must be at least .375” for books up to 150 pages, and .75” for books with 151 to 400 pages. Other margins must be at least .25 inches but you may want them larger for aesthetics. Measure the margins in some published books you like to see the difference it can make. Larger margins will also mean a bigger page count. That could be good if you have a short book and want to make it a bit thicker, but if you have a long book, more pages could mean you need to charge a higher price for it.

You may also have to adjust your header and footer distances to get the margins you want.

In Word, it looks like my title page is on the left
of a two-page spread
Front Matter

Front matter – that’s the stuff before the main text, the title page, copyright page, dedication, etc. – may be center justified. Choose a nice (stylish but readable) font and adjust the size appropriately You probably want a fairly large title, for example. Again, choose some traditionally published books and copy the type of content they have as well as the formatting.

The first page of novel text should be on the right-hand side, with a blank page opposite. If you view two pages at a time, remember that they won’t be the same two-page spreads that show up in the printed book. Rather, your first page will be a left-hand page when viewed in Microsoft Word, but a right-hand page in the print book.

Odd-numbered pages should always be on the right.

Headings

The title page is actually a right-hand page
because the first printed page faces up
Some books have the author name, the book title, and/or the chapter title at the tops of the pages. You’ll see it both ways in traditionally published books though, and setting this up is a bit complicated, so you might want to skip it. If you do want to use these headings, the first page of each chapter should not have a heading. Also, front matter and back matter (author’s note or whatever you have the back after the main text) should not have a heading. If you’re using headings, use section breaks (not page breaks) between chapters. This allows you to set up a different first page header (a blank header) for each chapter.

To put in a heading, double-click at the top of the page, above the main text, and Word should switch to into viewing the Header and Footer. You can then type in those spaces and format (left, right, center; change the font and the font size; etc.) Make sure to click the box that says Different First Page, and do not type anything in the first page. Also click Different Odd & Even Pages so you can put the book title on one side and the author name or chapter titles on the other side.

If you Link to Previous, each chapter will have the same headers and footers as the previous chapter. For front matter and back matter, un-click Link to Previous and erase anything in the headers and footers.

If your header or footer seem too large, make sure you don’t have an extra blank line above or below any text.

Text Design

For the main text, use full justification as opposed to ragged right. (This is under the Paragraph tab.) This will spread the text between the margins on the left and right. However, you may wind up with large gaps between some words. You will need to look for these gaps in your final review (below).

Choose your font and size. Garamond is a nice font for a novel. You can get fancy, but don’t get too fancy – use a readable font. It’s simplest if you use one you already have included with Microsoft Word, so you don’t have to worry about buying or licensing a specialty font or making sure it’s properly embedded in the PDF.

Adjust the leading (space between lines) by selecting all the relevant text, going to the Home Tab – Paragraph – Line Spacing and choosing Exactly and then the leading you want. 12.4 and 13.3 are common for leading, but you may want more or less depending on the font and font size. Make sure you’re not cutting off hanging letters from the line above – double check in the PDF, as it may be different from the Word version.

If that sounds too complicated, you can simply single space – but do not ever double space for a novel! (Yes, I’ve seen that in a self-published book.)

You may want to decrease your tab or first-line indent size so paragraphs aren’t indented as much. If you haven’t been able to break the habit of using five periods to indent, use the Search – Replace function and get rid of those.

Chapters

No headings on the first page of the chapter!
Add your chapter headings (whether this is just Chapter One or a chapter title). You can center the chapter headings and adjust the size. You may want the first word or letter of a chapter to be larger or bold. Study other books for ideas.

Of course you want all your chapter headings to be the same throughout. I found the simplest way to do this is to use the Format Painter button – the little paintbrush in the upper left-hand corner. Double-click on the paintbrush, and then scroll down to the next chapter heading. Click to the left of it and the line should adjust to the same formatting. Scroll down farther and repeat.

Final Polish

If you have any interior art, add it using the Insert button. Microsoft Word apparently compresses art, so it won’t be as high quality. This means it’s not ideal for books where the images are very important, but you can use simple line art.

Scan through every page looking for large gaps between words, and add hyphenation or otherwise adjust the formatting to get rid of them. Look for widows and orphans as well and get rid of them.

Save a copy as a PDF -- make sure you have chosen “standard” format. Choose ISO option if it’s not embedding the fonts. Double-check that all your formatting came through, such as italics. Be sure all your formatting is consistent.

Now you are ready to upload your document!

Troubleshooting

If my tips don’t seem to be working, or you need to know something else, do an Internet search for what you want to do and you should come up with plenty of tutorials, both written and video. They are often better than the Help menu in Word. You might also be able to find a tutorial that simply walks you through lots of the options.

One incredibly valuable tool is the Replace option. You’ll find it in the upper right corner of the Home tab. It can be used to fix all those problems that come from old habits. For example, search for two spaces and replace with one space. Click on the “More” button and then “special” to see many more options. If you have a document with tabs and you want to use the indent formatting instead, you can Replace “tab” (there are symbols that indicate these things; you don’t actually use the word) with nothing.

I always use the Replace function and replace " with " – the symbols look the same, but it will ensure that all quotes are “smart” or “curly” rather than straight. I do the same with the apostrophe.

And don’t forget the Undo button in case you do something wrong! If things are going well but you want to experiment with something risky, it might be a good idea to save the document in a new version before you start playing with it.

If you are overwhelmed, you have other options, such as hiring a professional or using a template. Print on demand companies may supply a template. You can buy more advanced preformatted templates available for Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign. TheBookDesigner has some for children’s books starting at $37.


Chris Eboch is the author of 40+ traditionally-published books and 10 self-published titles, including You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers and Advanced Plotting. Visit her Amazon page or website.



Additional resources:

How to format a book in Microsoft Word (with videos and lots of images)



How To Make A Professional Standard Print Book Interior With Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer