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3 Tips on Writing a Children’s Book

How to Write a Children's BookDid you know that the National Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country with the 94th annual celebration this week? We’re excited to honor those children’s authors and books that have made a lasting impact on a child’s life. And, if you’ve ever tried to write a children’s book, you know that it’s not as easy as it may seem. Children can be fickle in what they like, and some adult authors struggle to reach an audience with different interests and on a lower reading level.

How can you write a Christian children’s book with a positive message that children want to read? No matter where you are at in the process of writing your children’s book, we can help you with a few writing tips:

  • Determine your motives and message. With thousands of children’s titles published each year, you must figure out how to make yours stand out. Do you have a specific message you want to share with children? Perhaps you have noticed a certain type of book lacking in the children’s department, and you think you can write a book to fill that gap. Before you do anything else, spend time thinking about why you want to write a children’s book, then determine what message you want to communicate.
  • Get on their level. Children are a unique group of readers. Their attention span is short, their interests vary from moment to moment and their view of the world is different than adults. So, spend time with children to learn what they like, what they are curious about and what scares them. Keep these children in mind when you start writing. It is also important that you know exactly what age group your book is aimed at. A book for a toddler would be written differently than a book for a five-year-old.
  • Utilize pictures. Not only should the words in your book connect with the children in your target age range, but the pictures should as well. Since most young children cannot read on their own, illustrations and pictures help them understand a story. Your pictures should be age appropriate, bright and colorful and match the plotline of your story. If you are not an illustrator you can hire a freelance illustrator or choose from one or more of the interior illustrations services WestBow Press offers.

Writing a children’s book is not always easy and can become an exercise in being concise and communicating a big message on a child’s level. But, seeing a child’s eyes light up when they read your book is worth all the hard work.

What were your favorite books as a child?


Finding Your Voice as a Writer

Finding Your Voice as a WriterIt’s important for writers to find their voice and apply it to their stories. But first, what is a writer’s voice? It’s a combination of things – syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc. – that make your writing unique. Your voice when writing books differs from when speaking at engagements.  No one else can offer what you can – your unique perspective and storytelling will keep your readers coming back for more if you stay true to yourself and your voice. So, it’s essential for you to unlock your creative potential and find your writing voice.

Here are a few tips on how to find and develop your voice:

1.)    Visualize someone you want to talk to. Pretend you’re writing a self-help book for teens, and you have a fourteen-year-old niece. Visualize your niece sitting next to you as you write. This makes it easier for you to tell the information with words of encouragement from a concerned loved one rather than simply instructive words coming from a figure of authority.

2.)    Play games. Create lists of words in order to discover ideas you’ve kept hidden from yourself.  Make sure these words mean something to you; don’t just search for synonyms. Really think about them.  Make a list of words that you find creepy, then a list of things that you find inspirational. Make a list of foods you enjoy, then a list of places you want to visit. Make a list of movies you enjoyed as a child, then a list of gifts you’d give yourself and family if you won the lottery.

3.)    Free write. Write whatever comes to mind without editing. Take a few words from the lists you created from step two and simply begin writing. After a few sessions, review your work and see if you would publish something similar. Your most honest work is usually revealed when you’re comfortable and without stress or deadlines.

Your voice is created from persistent hard work, and when you challenge yourself. So, keep writing – and reading – in order to develop your voice once you discover it. You’ll stand out among other authors by showing the world you have something to say and have a unique way of saying it.

How did you find your writing voice?


Ten Commandments for New Authors

Ten Commandments for New AuthorsOver my past 20 years in the book publishing industry, I have seen many new authors make the same mistakes. These mistakes seem obvious to industry insiders, which is perhaps why we have not done a better job of helping authors avoid making them. In this era where most new books are self-published, to some degree, an author is responsible for several functions that are normally outsourced to their publisher. As a result, these mistakes are becoming more common.

While not nearly as important as the original Ten Commandments, these guidelines can determine an author’s level of success. (more…)


How to Beat Writer’s Block

6 Ways to Beat Writer's BlockWe’re all writers, and we’ve all been there – that moment when we suddenly lose our train of thought, and we have no idea what we were just writing. I’m talking about that moment all writers dread: writer’s block.

When you find yourself facing writer’s block, it is important to remember that you are not alone and every other author out there has dealt with writer’s block at some time during their writing career. Although it is discouraging, writer’s block is temporary and it too shall pass. But, for the time being, here are six tips I use to beat writer’s block.

6 Tips on How to Beat Writer’s Block:

Be Active – Go for a walk, jog or run. Do yoga or go to the gym. Being active is a great way to reduce stress and clear your mind. Once you’ve cleared your mind you’ll find it easier to collect your thoughts and work on your writing.

Take a Nap – Whether you take a short power nap or an over-due, long midday nap, you’ll wake up refreshed. Chances are you’re facing writer’s block because your body is telling you that it needs a break. Take a nap and wake up rested, recharged and ready to tackle your writing for the day.

Watch a Movie – Take a break long enough to watch a movie. It can be your go-to movie when you’re stressed or down, a new movie you haven’t seen or any other movie you have in your collection. Movies provide visual inspiration and inspiration, and they allow your brain to relax. Who knows, maybe you’ll get inspiration for a character you’ve had trouble developing or an idea for a plot twist!

Be Prompted – If you want to face writer’s block head on, use a writing prompt to jumpstart your mind. Every Friday, we provide a writing tip and prompt for our readers with both text and a visual. If you’ve already used all of our writing prompts and are looking for a new challenge, you can search the internet for a plethora of writing prompts.

Switch Mediums – Maybe you are too distracted and cannot focus on your writing, or you cannot put your thoughts in writing fast enough. If you normally type on your computer, switch to pen and paper. By doing this, you will not have the internet at your fingertips, and you can focus on the task at hand: writing. If you normally write with pen and paper, try typing. Most people type faster than they write and that will help you write your thoughts faster, preventing you from getting lost in them.

Unwind – Whether you listen to music, read a book, dance or eat a snack, just do something that allows you to unwind. You can listen to music while you’re writing, or take a break from writing completely. Whatever you chose to do to unwind, just do it and enjoy it without keeping thoughts of your writing in the back of your mind.

 

The key to tackling writer’s block is taking a step back and focusing on something different for a short while. You will only get frustrated if you are suffering from writer’s block and try to ignore it.

Two important things to remember about writer’s block: it is our body’s way of telling us our mind needs a break, and it is temporary. So, the next time you find yourself facing writer’s block, take a deep breath and focus on something else knowing that you’ll be able to come back and tackle your writing with a clear mind later.

What tips do you have for beating writer’s block?


Focus on God with Your Writing During Lent

Use Your Writing to Bring Your Focus to GodAsh Wednesday reminds us that the season of Lent is upon us. Starting today, Christians prepare themselves for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This time is used to reflect through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial. The duration of Lent is often related to the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he started his ministry.

In order to focus more on God, Christians fast during Lent. Traditionally, this implies giving something up that we enjoy, such as chocolate or soda. It is important to remember that we do not always have to give something up in order to fast and focus on God. Sometimes we benefit more from doing something extra during Lent, such as reading the Bible every day or volunteering at a soup kitchen.  As a writer, you can use your gift to bring your focus to God during this time of preparation.

3 Ways Your Writing Can Bring Your Focus to God:

Reflect – Choose passages in the Bible to read and reflect on during Lent. Write about what the passages mean to you and how you can apply the messages in your daily life.

Pray – Keep a prayer journal during Lent and write in it every day.

Listen – God has called you to write your story. What purpose has He given your story? Now, more than ever, listen to God as He guides you in your writing.

This Lenten season, incorporate these three things in your writing as your way of fasting. Lent does not mean we need to forbid ourselves from something we enjoy. Sometimes, by doing something such as writing or volunteering, we inadvertently give up something because we are focusing on God and not our desires.

How will you use your writing to bring your focus to God this Lent?


2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest Winner, Amy Sorrells on Traditional Publishing

“Every time you post a status update, it says you’re editing,” a friend on Facebook recently joked with me.

She’s right. At the same time Women of Faith announced I won their 2012 writing contest last March, my literary agent was negotiating a traditional publishing contract with David C. Cook. Since then, life has been a bowl of cherries.

And editing.

And editing.

And editing.

And I couldn’t be more grateful.

To be honest, the editing process (which is finally winding down) has been the most difficult work my brain has ever done. Not awful, just difficult. I like to relate the process to a concert band. Initially, the instruments struggle to be in tune, find the tune and carry the tune. The conductor reprimands the trumpets for playing too loudly. He sends the woodwinds to another room to figure out how to make their part blend in better, and the drums are so far off score, they seem hopeless. But in the end the music comes together and lifts the applauding audience to their feet. It is the same with editing a novel in preparation for publication. (more…)


New Year, New You – Write that Book

With every new year comes a fresh start, and what better time to start writing your book than now. Between writing your book, editing it and finding a publisher, writing can be overwhelming and stressful. The key to reaching your writing goals this year is to make it an achievable task that fits into your schedule.

To help you with writing your book, I’ve listed four helpful tips:

1.       Set a reasonable deadline – Whether the deadline is for your first draft or for publication, make sure it is reasonable. If you are aiming to write a novel in a month, writing can quickly escalate from a fun passion to a daunting chore. Plus, with a reasonable deadline there is always the chance that you will finish ahead of schedule, increasing the sense of achievement you will already be feeling from writing your book.

2.       Outline your plot and characters – Writing your book can be as easy as you make it. In an earlier writing tip from WestBow Press, it was suggested that you really know your characters before you start writing your book. By taking the time to outline your plot and characters, writing your book will be like filling in the blanks.

3.       Make a schedule and stick to it – Like your deadline, your schedule should be reasonable to prevent yourself from falling behind. When making your schedule, remember that quality is better than quantity and it is not imperative to write every day. With a reasonable schedule, you  can always change your schedule as the writing process progresses.   

4.       Schedule time to edit – If you already have editing time scheduled, it will not take time away from focusing on the task at hand: writing your book. By editing your work on a different day than you wrote it, you will be more likely to catch any errors or typos. You can save time at the end of the writing process if you set aside one day a week to edit your work.

Writing your book does not need to become a new stressor in your life. Use these tips to help keep writing your book a fun and enjoyable task.


Writing During the Holidays

Our writing is thankful for the holidays, but not because we deem a holiday the excuse we’ve been looking for to put our thoughts to rest. Quite the contrary. Such days are full of life — bursting with color.

During the holidays, personality surrounds you, and the uplifting tone has a way of re-centering your spirit — a refreshed appreciation for the simplicities of life. The holidays serve as a  reminder for what truly matters. And the excitement lies within the characters (family and friends) and the heart of their stories.

Writers have been known to hop up amidst conversation and burrow to the corner of the room, even if for only a few minutes. Writers are taking notes — jotting tidbits of thought and inspiration from the intricacies of these personalities they adore so much (for both their complexities and complimenting attributes).

These little notes may not make up a complete character in their developing story, but may contribute to or spread across the motions of many of their characters. Or perhaps a word or phrase strikes an idea for a new storyline or twist to their current plot.

Our point is, home is your comfort zone — a place where inspiration flows easily and in its purest form. And so, this holiday, as you sit among the company of family and friends, really listen and look…feel. Inspiration…it’s all around you.


5 Steps to Success for National Novel Writing Month

You’ve probably known for a while that you want to write a book. Now, all you need to do is get the words onto the page. Of course, anyone who has ever sat down to write anything more than a grocery list knows that it’s rarely so simple.

But just as every thousand-mile journey must begin with a first step, every 50,000-word novel must begin with one single word. And that’s the great thing about National Novel Writing Month. Even if you’re not one of the “winners” who reaches the prose promised land of writing a 50,000-word manuscript between Nov. 1 and 30, you’ll still be on your way to completing your book.

By signing up at nanowrimo.org, you’re challenging yourself, holding yourself accountable and gaining access to a community of like-minded marathon writers.

So use this advice from a two-time NaNoWriMo participant; then go forth and make the most out of your November writing opportunities, NaNoWriMo or no.

  1. Be Accountable – One of the most important aspects of NaNoWriMo is the accountability factor. That’s why you should tell as many people as possible that you’ll be going for the 50,000-word goal in November. The more people you tell, the more help you’ll have during the challenge.
  2.  Seek Support – Take advantage of all the resources available through NaNoWriMo. In addition to receiving pep talks via Twitter, Facebook, email and more, you can use the site to connect with other writers in your community. These people can be your allies as you work through difficult passages or find yourself growing weary.
  3.  Prepare – Have an idea of who your characters will be and what they’ll be doing. Some people like to outline or have a rough three-act structure in mind; others storyboard. Do what works for you, but do it.
  4.  Focus – Figure out what time of the day and in what environment you write best. Then make a date with your writing desk every single day at that time (or two or three times a day if you work better in shorter spurts). 
  5.  Go with God – Should all else fail – the plot you started with begins to unravel; or you feel your focus slipping – come back to this: “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another … Do it with all the strength and energy God supplies.  Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:10, 11

Whether or not you decide to join the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world participating in National Novel Writing Month this November, trust that you have what it takes to complete your book. Now go forth and write!


The Three Basics to Editing

During the writing process, many writers tend to pre-edit their work while still crafting the story. An approach that is usually more effective is to schedule editing and writing as two separate parts of your routine. If you are a morning writer, wait at least until the evening before you edit anything. Depending on what works best for you, you can wait until the next day or you can even wait until you’ve completed a full draft of the book. The point is to allow your text a chance to fully develop.

There is no doubt that proper editing is a key factor in your book’s overall potential for success. Follow these basic editing tips for an in-production manuscript:

  1. Walk away before you edit. Give yourself some time to gain a fresh perspective, and return to your work with new eyes. Don’t try to edit or rework your story directly after a writing session. Everything looks different the next day.
  2. Don’t rely on your computer for editing. Your computer’s spelling and grammar check will only get you so far. Not only can it skip over misspellings and grammatical mistakes, but your computer does not recognize important subtleties in context or writing style.
  3. Let a professional read your manuscript. It’s okay to share your story with friends and family for their opinion of your book. However, you will need to rely on the critical eye of a professional for feedback that will help you improve your book’s content, grammar and structure. 

Remember, the interior pages of your book are just as much a representation of your author brand as your investment in an eye-catching, customized exterior. The cover is meant to reach out to potential readers, alluring them to purchase the book. The written words, on the other hand, are what will keep the reader invested in your work and build loyalty.

Investing in editing services will assure that your book is within industry standards and is ready for your potential readers. If your work consistently presents a combination of clean content, a fluid storyline and your own unique writing style, readers will grow to have positive expectations for your work and for your author brand.

How do you balance writing and editing?

 


Diversify Your Writing Portfolio

You know it and I know it — it’s hard to make it in this writing gig. And nowadays, with heightened competition and innovative marketing practices, it’s almost mandatory that you extend your writer’s hand down a variety of promotional avenues.

It’s about building a business – your writing business – and you and your thoughts are the product. What are you going to do to build your name, enhance your capabilities, and brand yourself with high level expectations?

Take the pro-active approach to your writing business and diversify your portfolio with the following items:

1. Blogs, Podcasts and Videos. A triple threat of sight and sound. Engage your potential readers with a regular writing schedule, your blog, giving snippets of your style and a name they can follow. Create podcasts and video linked to your blog and virally distribute on websites such as YouTube and FaceBook.

2. Articles. Write and submit, write and submit. Seek out magazines within your writing genre or those that may compliment your story or writing style. Brand yourself with specialized knowledge. And get published, even if it’s in a monthly edition.

3. Writing Associations. Embrace your industry and attend annual writer’s conferences. Become involved in writing communities and network with fellow writers. Get to know industry editors. Carry a professional portfolio of your writing, published works, awards and any press coverage.

4. Seminars. Seek out opportunities to speak to potential readers and industry professionals. Speak for free if you have to. You can start small — writer’s groups, bookstores. Prepare a presentation with a niche and present it to your writing associations for next year’s conference.

5. Facebook and Twitter. Get e-socially connected. It’s a must and it works. Haven’t you heard a story of a friend of a friend…well, that can be you and your writing the friend is speaking of. Get involved in social networks, treat it as an element of your business, and promote your writing.

Start small and understand that this combined effort will take time. It’s one of those things — you give it all you’ve got and it feels like your efforts are slow paced. But with consistency and the extra mile, the payoff can be grand.


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