Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Critiques Are Essential

The following article of interest to children's writers is reprinted from Karen Cioffi's The Writing World newsletter.

Having been a moderator of a children's writing critique group and a reviewer for multiple genres, as well as being an editor, I read a number of manuscripts and books. Reading both well written books and books that lack polish, it's easy to tell which authors haven't bothered to have their work critiqued or edited. 

Seeing the unnecessary and unprofessional mistakes of writers publishing unpolished work, I always include the importance of belonging to a critique group in articles or ebooks I write about writing. Even experienced authors depend on the unique perspective and extra eyes that each critique member provides. 

The critique group can catch a number of potential problems with your manuscript, such as:

1. Grammatical errors
2. Holes in your story
3. Unclear sentences, paragraphs, or dialogue
4. The forward movement of the story
5. Overuse of a particular word, adjectives, and adverbs
6. Unnecessary words to eliminate for a tight story
7. Unnecessary or excessive scenes that should be eliminated to ensure a tight story
8. Character continuity
9. Manuscript formatting
10. Head hopping 

The list goes on and on. And, there are even more potential problems to be watched out for when writing for children. It's near impossible for even an experienced writer to catch all of his or her own errors.

Your critique partners will also provide suggestions and guidance. Note here, it is up to you whether to heed those suggestion and comments, but if all the members of your group suggest you rewrite a particular sentence for clarity, hopefully a light will go off and you'll pay attention.

Along with having those extras sets of eyes to help you along, you will begin to see your own writing improve. You will also be able to find your own errors and those of others much quicker. This will help you become a better and more confident writer. 

Now, while the critique group does not take the place of an editor, they do help you get to the point where you think you're ready for submission. At this point, it is always advisable to seek an editor to catch what you and your critique group missed. And, believe me, there will be something in your manuscript that wasn't picked up on.

When looking into joining a critique group, be sure the group has both new and experienced writers. The experienced writers will help you hone your craft through their critiques of your work. 

If you haven’t already, join a critique group today.
Article by Karen Cioffi and reprinted from The Writing World newsletter. Subscribe today at and get How to Create an Optimized Website: 3 Essential Author/Writer Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages, along with writing and marketing tips, plus updates on free webinars.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Potent Social Marketing Help for Writers

With 215,000 e-mail subscribers and 800,000 monthly readers, Social Media Examiner is a pretty potent information marketer. This week I’m posting links to a few recent articles. The best way to keep up with this spotlight on the social media community is to sign up for the free daily newsletter

For Facebook Users
“How to Drive More Facebook Traffic to Your Website”

“4 Easy Steps to Implement a Facebook Marketing Strategy”

“Facebook Hashtags”

For Bloggers
“5 Creative Ways to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog Posts”

“26 Tips to Create a Strong Social Media Content Strategy”

“3 Tools to Help You Discover and Share Great Content”

For Pinterest Users
“Pinterest Success: Creative Ways to Use Pinterest for Your Business”

For Twitter Users
“Twitter Traffic: How to Double Your Traffic to Your Content”

Which blogs have you found most useful?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Does Your Child Like to Read?

An earlier version of the following article first published at Margaret Bucklew's great blog site for children's literature

The operative word is like, when you’re talking about children and reading. If your child likes to read, your child will almost certainly become a proficient reader. The key is getting your child to read beyond what is required at school: voluntary, independent reading—in other words, reading for fun. Just adding a few extra minutes a day can dramatically increase children’s exposure to words, and by extension, improve their ability to understand what they read. If students increase their reading time to about eleven minutes per day, they would read almost 700,000 words per year (see the article by Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding in Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 23)


And children who read proficiently are most likely to benefit in a host of different ways including improving their

reading, writing, and spelling skills 


verbal fluency

general knowledge

enjoyment of learning in general

social interaction


(taken from an American study (Cunningham and Stanovich, “What Reading Does for the Mind,” 1998) and the British government project (“Every Child a Reader,” 2010)

As South African education specialist, Elizabeth Pretorius, says, “Academic success relies on successful learning; successful learning relies on the ability to read.”

Poor Reading Skills Are a Real Problem
The negative consequences of poor reading skills range from serving time in prison to not being able to read a prescription. Here are a few facts:

Fourteen percent of Americans aged sixteen and older read at or below a fifth-grade level; 29 percent only read at eighth-grade level, and among those with lowest literacy rates, 43 percent live in poverty (ProLiteracy organization).

Low literacy adds an estimated $230 billion to the USA’s annual health care costs (ProLiteracy organization).

Forty-six percent of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine (Journal of the American Medical Association).

The 2009 SAT results revealed that students with four or more years of English and language arts scored over 100 points more in critical reading, writing, and mathematics than students who had one year or less training (The College Board).

Reading frequency declines after age eight, and boys are less likely than girls to read frequently (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).

How Do You Encourage Children to Read on Their Own?

You set the example. You provide a home full of books that they can see you reading: “Having reading role-model parents or a large book collection at home has more of an impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income” (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).

And you guide them to books that easy to read, perhaps especially written for reluctant readers.

What Kinds of Books?
Books that are written especially for reluctant readers are short and fast paced; the chapters end in cliff hangers; the plots are uncomplicated; descriptive material is kept to a minimum; and the humor comes in large buckets.

When it comes to humor, my favorite quotation is from What Kids Who Don't Like to Read Like to Read, a 2009 article on the Parents Choice website by Kemie Nix of Children's Literature for Children, Inc. Ms Nix wrote: "The books with the greatest chance of hooking the transitional readers and pulling them out of the pre-book limbo are the humorous ones. And books of humorous episodes are the very best of all! With fifty really funny books, the world could be saved from illiteracy."

Some of my favorite writers for reluctant readers are Dan Gutman (too many titles to mention here), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series), Frank Asch (Cardboard Genius series), Gary Paulsen (Liar, Liar, and Flat Broke), and Louis Sachar (Wayside series), to name but a very few.

Where Do Children Get the Books They Read?

“Parents are a key source of ideas for finding books to read, particularly for young children. But kids—especially younger kids—also rely on the library, school book fairs, and bookstores to find books to read for fun” (Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008).

 I’d love to hear what your “reluctant” reader likes to read
. I'm away on vacation over the next two weeks. I hope you'll start a conversation here.