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Friday, April 12, 2013

19 Writing Tips by Kitty Griffin

 Just 19 tips for those of you writing for children.

1. From Emma Dryden--Social Media (twitter, FB, blogs, websites) is never meant to be a sales pitch venue. NEVER. It is all meant to be a means to chat with colleagues, readers, and a way to make new friends.  Blogs are not read by kids, so blogs are not meant to be geared towards young readers -- rather, blogs are a really important way for writers to share their writing, their ideas, their thoughts, their interests with other adults -- writers, editors, friends, etc.  Blogs are an excellent way to start conversations, to raise questions, to ask friends and strangers to join in on a conversation, to express themselves, etc.  They say that for blogs to be most effective, the author should post 2 times a week -- this is a lot, so the idea of a group blog is terrific!  Generate ideas, share poetry, share recipes, share anecdotes about kids, pets, family, etc....all of this is a way to make writers more "personal" to a larger community  of readers.

2. From George Ella Lyon—“They don’t come to your house.”
(Knock! Knock! “Oh, hello hard-working writer, I’m a famous New York editor and I hear you have a story that is just wonderful. Can I see it? If you don’t send it they won’t see it!)

3. From Jane Yolen—“Butt in chair.”

4. Meeting an editor can make all the difference in the world. There are lots of conferences out there. Once you make a connection, work it, but do it professionally. Remember that editors today are insanely busy. A card to say thanks after having a one on one is nice. Nothing about your manuscript or your brilliant writing, just a plain thanks for taking time to help me.

5. Don’t bother an editor who doesn’t want a picture book with a picture book manuscript. Pay attention to what they do and what they want. If they don’t want sci fi, don’t tell them that yours will change their mind. It won’t.

6. The first page is so important. While quiet writing is always lovely and enchanting, I’ve found that the stories I have that slap the reader right into the story are the ones that get the most attention. Strong voice, vibrant verbs, and snappy dialogue will get your next page looked at. Then that has to be strong, vibrant and snappy, too.

7. Stay focused. No matter what is going on around you, keep your eyes on the prize, and that’s a finished manuscript. Then remember, an editor will tell you, “I love it love it love it can you change it?” This is hard, but ask yourself, “Do I want to be published?”

8. Invest in some classes. After all, if you don’t believe in you, who will? If you’re serious about your writing, but you realize you’re not getting anywhere, take a class and see if that helps. If you write fiction, maybe try a nonfiction class to see where it leads. Push yourself. Stretch your creativity. Get uncomfortable.

9. Rejection sucks. Nothing makes it feel better. It’s lousy. Remember that word, persistence. Be persistent and believe in yourself.

10. When something nice happens, reward yourself. Let the feeling last oh, a good ten minutes. Then get back to work.
From "The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy" Illustration by Marjorie Priceman
11. Make sure you are following the publishers’ guidelines. Read their submission policy carefully. Some want exclusive (me only) submissions. Some don’t care. Some want a first chapter. Some want a certain number of pages. If you’re addressing your query to someone in particular, make sure the name is spelled correctly. I've heard editors/agents talk about not reading a manuscript because THEIR name was spelled incorrectly.
12. Are you in a writer’s group? If there’s one in your area, try it on for size. Go three times and if you’re inspired and you RESPECT the people in the group, give it a try. Writer’s groups should nurture, not reject. They should help, not hinder. If there is someone who dominates the time and interjects and interrupts, run away.
13. Can you tell your story in three sentences? The first would tell the beginning, the second would be the middle, and the last one would give a hint about the ending. Can you do that? If you can’t…put the story in the oven and let it rise some more. Seriously. If you can’t do this three-sentence thing, your story is going to run all over the place. (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE IN THIS POST) 
14. When your crafting character’s dialogue, make sure that everyone doesn’t sound exactly the same.
15. How are your transitions? Are they conducting the reader or stopping them in their tracks?
16. Does your main character talk to herself a lot? Like all the time? Might could be you want to give her a friend to talk to.
17. Try to avoid using was.
18. Do you know what third person close means? It's the most common POV used in children's writing. If you don't know, find out. Or write to me and I'll tell you.
19. Remember, you can do this. You can do this. It takes time and persistence, but you can do this. I did it. You can too.
Look at how confident I was as a kid! Yee haw!


  1. Right on, Kitty! Terrific advice for anyone writing! Thanks for the Friday push.

  2. This is a great post Kitty. I'm going to print it out and hang it up over my computer. Thanks for writing what I need to read and follow right now!