Friday, May 28, 2010

Dangers of Facebook, Google and other Social Networks

Usually, I reserve Friday's for reviews, links, and tips, but today I want to share some important information.

I watched a TV show last week featuring Google; it was very enlightening and frightening. The presenter exposed some of the security risks associated with this mega company. I'm not sure many people are aware that any information Google acquires from your purchases, searches, and other activities you do through them, is saved and easily retrievable for 18 months. There after, it's more difficult to get a hold of, but it can be done.

In one aspect, it's great that if a terrorist or troubled individual searched for how to build a bomb, or get their hands on weapons, authorities have the ability to track the information down., But, as writers, we do research on a number of topics. Even, college students are required to do research on topics they have no interest in or are actually involved in. And, what about those who make purchases they think are private?

But, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Today, I read an article in Yahoo News about Facebook and security options. The personal information you readily share with your friends can easily be hacked either by your account, or a friend's account, being hacked, or by bugs. There have been cases of robberies based on users sharing their vacation plans, and even identity theft because of all the personal information we put out there for ALL to see.

From the onset of these social networking entities, I saw the potential for trouble. How many sites want your birth date, even ning sites ask for it? I recently got a e-birthday-card from a site. For a moment I wondered why . . . then I realized I never put my real birth date on the internet. My ages range from the 20s to 70s online. How many sites request your address?

So, bottom line, social networkers beware of the information you make available to potential hackers, thieves, and identity thieves. It can be as simple as your pet's name or your maiden name for the unsavory element to make use of it.

To read the article from Yahoo News and get more information go to:
http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/109670/how-to-secure-your-facebook-account?mod=family-home

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MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Social Media Marketing and Time Management
Social Media Marketing Tips: Twitter Dos and Don’ts

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Aim for Writing Success

Writing success can mean different things to different writers. Some writers may simply want to get a book or article published; others may want to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List; still others may want to make a living writing; and there are those who may be seeking wealth and fame. The key here is to dig down and really know what your perception of writing success is.

Once you are certain what you are aiming for, take the necessary steps to become the writing success you dream of. Sounds easy, right? Well, we all know it’s not, if it were, there would be no struggling writers.

The first problem we seem to run into is actually realizing how we perceive success, or what we want from our writing efforts. According to Jack Canfield, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul, the number one reason for being stuck and not realizing your potential or goals is the lack of clarity.

Step One: You Must Define Your Goals and Your Perception of Success

It’s not sufficient to state you want to be a published writer; you need to proclaim the specifics. You want to be a self-help nonfiction author of published books and magazine articles earning an income of $100,000 per year. You can even get much more specific than that—the more specific your goals and intentions are the more likely you will attain them.

Step Two: Prepare a Plan

When you finally have a break through and know exactly what you want from your writing efforts, you need to prepare a detailed plan. Your plan, just like your goals, needs to be very specific. Think of a recipe: You plan on baking a cake, but you’ll need more than just the ingredients, you’ll need the exact amount of each ingredient, the proper procedure for mixing them together, the baking temperature, how long to bake it, how long to cool it before removing it from the pan . . . you get the idea.

Now you’re on your way . . . you have specific goals . . . a detailed plan . . . but . . . you’re still not achieving success.

Step Three: Take Action

Think of the first two steps as the foundation of your house. To move forward toward success, you need to build the house. This takes action; it actually takes more than just action, it takes ongoing action and perseverance to carry you through to completion.

Step Four: Projection

You have the other steps down pat, now picture yourself attaining your goals. According to motivational speakers, you will have a much greater chance of making it happen by projecting success. This step encompasses a number of strategies such as envisioning, projection, projection boards, and affirmations.

Take aim . . . shoot.

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Related Articles:

Writing for Children – Finding Age Appropriate Words
Be a Better Writer by Writing More

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Recommended Writing Tool

How to Make $250+/Day Writing Simple, 500-Word Articles

Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial is a working freelance writer. She’s been doing this since 2007 and is offering to show you how to make money writing articles. And, there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Check it out for yourself: Make Money Writing

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Picture Books: Why do we Write Them?

It really does seem a lot of children’s writers tend to write picture books. According to Elana Roth of Johnson Literary Agency:
There is clearly a problem with picture books these days. Conferences are loaded with people who feel driven to write them. (I've polled people before and it feels like 75% of the room is there because they write picture books. Some day I'll ask them exactly WHY they feel so compelled to do this. That's more of a mystery to me.)
Roth goes on to explain that it’s to the point where agents are NOT very enthusiastic about accepting them. Apparently there are just too many, and they cover the same topics. On top of this problem, there isn’t much money in picture books—the cost can outweigh the profit.

As a children’s author, and one who started with picture books, I can see Roth’s point. So, why is it that children’s writers aim at a picture book market that is already oversaturated?

While I can’t speak for all writers, I was inspired by the thought of having a young child enthralled while having someone read one of my books to him. I also felt it would be easier to write picture books rather than a lengthier chapter book or novel. But, what new writers to the arena don’t realize is that it is much more difficult to write picture books, not to mention writing a successful picture book.

It’s true that children’s books in general come with a whole set of their own rules and tricks for writing them effectively; picture books have those rules and tricks, and a bunch of their own. It’s only when you get into the process, especially if you work with a writing coach that you realize just how difficult it is to write a picture book.

Along with the obvious children’s writing rules of watching for age appropriate subject matter and vocabulary, you also have to watch the time frame, have the child solve the problem, and create an engaging story in under 1000 words. On top of this, you have to account for the portion of the story told through illustrations. While some authors become very proficient at this genre, others struggle to make it all work.

So, we go back to the question: Why do a majority of children’s writers author picture books?

It’s probably a combination of reasons:

1. Many writers think they are easy to write.
2. Some writers think of writing for children in terms of writing picture books.
3. Writers feel a nurturing emotion when writing a book for that young age group. You help mold a child’s mind, you bring him on an adventure, or bring him to a place he’s never been. You share the world and beyond with him.

The goal for the picture book writer is to make an overdone topic new, and promote, promote, promote.

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MORE ON WRITING

Writing with Focus
Should You Use a Pseudonym?

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Karen Cioffi Writing for Children

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is Your Story's Theme?

Theme is the take-away value your story provides; it can be a moral, a teaching, insight (in regard to your perspective) into the world or human nature. Along with the plot, it is what motivates your main character, subtly, to struggle to get from point A to point B.

Interestingly, at times, we’re not aware of what our theme actually is, or whether it will have more than one suggested take-away. This can be problematic. I reviewed a wonderfully illustrated children’s picture book, not too long ago. The main character was cute and it was well written, but the authors didn’t realize there was an alternative message that young children could take-away from the story, one that might have children feeling they have to conform in one way or another to be accepted.

In the Children’s Writer June 2010 Newsletter, an article by Chris Eboch explained, “Try to envision the different messages someone could get from your story. [. . .] Having readers miss your intended theme can be a problem, if they are seeing messages that go against your beliefs.”

Eboch suggested that authors let children read the story and see what message they take-away from it. This is a great idea; what better way to determine if children can find alternative messages in your story. Another useful tool is to be part of a critique group; the members' perspective may prove to be invaluable.

Another good point Eboch related was not to overly structure your story around a theme, “It’s [theme] a fragile concept, and we need to allow it to come out of the subconscious mind, which is where the best writing takes place.”  The article goes on to explain that if we try to force a particular theme, it will create forced characters, and a forced plot.

Sometimes this is hard to accomplish, especially when you are adapting an old tale or myth into your own creation. The moral or teaching is already in place. This happened to me with my story, Walking Through Walls; it is loosely based on an ancient Chinese tale. I did change it drastically by using children instead of adults, and creating a full story with additional characters and plot around a sketchy outline of the tale, but it was the outline that motivated me to write the story. While the moral, or take-away value, is somewhat different than the original tale, there is a vague resemblance.

Working from a tale, and having an established theme in the back of my mind, didn’t seem to be a hindrance for me; I focused much more one the main character’s journey to fulfill his goal, and his enlightenment and growth in the process. The theme, I think, gently nudged the protagonist along and gave me the security of knowing the general vicinity of where he’d end up.

Related Articles:

How do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeepers
Writing – Conflict is Key

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Karen Cioffi Writing for Children

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Determination, Focus, and Perseverance

I’m a huge fan of positive thinking and projection. I believe our mind has a great influence over our well being and the direction our life can take. Granted, it’s not always easy to harness that influence, but there is enough content out there, including The Secret, to at least strive to think positive and project.

For example, Jack Canfield and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 144 times from publishers. Finally, in 1993, their book was accepted. Since they were in debt and couldn’t afford a publicist, they did their own promotion. In 1995, they won the Abby Award and the Southern California Publicist Award.

In a teleconference I attended with Jack Canfield as the speaker, he said the co-authors created vision boards of what they wanted. They even took a copy of the New York Times Best Selling Page, whited out the #1 spot, and replaced it with Chicken Soup for the Soul. They put copies of it everywhere, even in the toilet. They envisioned and projected success. The rest is history.

On a much smaller scale, my daughter and co-author of Day’s End Lullaby, Robyn, practices the philosophy of The Secret. For ten years she’s dreamed of being in the audience of the Oprah show. She actually got tickets twice, but for one reason or another, she was unable to attend. But, it didn’t stop her, she persevered and kept trying. Well, the weekend of May 8th, Oprah had her Live Your Best Life weekend in New York City. Robyn got a ticket for the weekend event and ended up being photographed. Her photo is now on Oprah’s website. In addition, she was about four feet from Oprah at one of the events, while she took a picture. This may not mean much to some, but for a young woman who has dreamed of being in the same room as Oprah, it’s a big . . . no HUGE deal. You can check it out at (she’s the one on the right, her friend Christine is on the left):

http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Photos-from-O-Magazines-Live-Your-Best-Life-Weekend/5#slide

So, what has this to do with you and me as writers . . . plenty . . . just about every writer has heard the adage, it’s not necessarily the best writers who succeed, it’s the writers who persevere. Stay determined and focused on your writing goals. Don’t let rejection stop you . . . persevere.

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Other Articles You May Find Interesting:

Marketing- Which is More Important, the Sales Copy or the Product?
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Does it Again with Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers

Title: Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers
Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Publisher: Self Publishing
ISBN: 1450507654
Reviewer: Karen Cioffi

What’s more important to a writer than words? Not much . . .  maybe how to put words together properly, using correct grammar, weaving them together to create descriptive or informative content . . . but, we still go back to the foundation of every writer’s manuscript or article . . . words.

Carolyn Howard Johnson’s latest book, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers, is a  little 55 page book (or e-book) that a writer can refer to over and over and over to find help with some of the most common word trippers.

In the Before You Get Started section of this book, Howard-Johnson explains, “Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers is full of words that are trouble causers. They either sound alike or are spelled similarly. They are not arcane words that you will seldom have an occasion to use. They are not words the writer knows but still mistypes.”

Words such as climactic and climatic used improperly or misspelled can mean a rejection when submitting to the “gatekeepers.” The addition or deletion of that little second “c” makes a huge difference in the meaning of the word.

Or, how about the words: all together / altogether; demur / demure; one in the same / one and the same; and peeked / peaked / piqued. These are just a few of the word trippers added in the Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers.

Listed in an A – Z format, the words chosen for this book are thoroughly explained with the aid of examples. This all makes for an easy to understand and easy to read guide. The author also provides two resource sections at the end of the book: Reading: One Editing Book at a Time, and Other Writers’ Aids.

I happen to be a fan of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Frugal series and have the Frugal Editor as well as the Frugal Book Promoter. They are a part of my writing and marketing toolkit. The author has done it again with the Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers. She has compiled this much needed booklet as an addendum to a list in the appendix of her book, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success.

I learned a great deal from Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers and will be referring to it often. In fact, it's funny, after reading the Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers I find myself much more aware of silly mistakes I make with words and how a simple little deletion or addition of a letter in a word can make a world of difference. I highly recommend it.

Karen Cioffi Freelance Writer
For Individuals and Businesses

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Benefits of Creating an eBook

You know . . . an easy way to turn your knowledge into possible income is to create a booklet or e-book. And, with an e-book, if you use sources such as Lulu.com and Smashwords.com, it won’t cost a penny. It’s as easy as putting the pieces of a puzzle together.

But, on the flip side, if you’re thinking of doing B2B (business to business) work, businesses would prefer a booklet to hand out to prospects, clients, or employees.

While booklets have their place, today, I’m going to address e-books because they're such an amazing product and they can be absolutely FREE to create! What else can you create for FREE and SELL for whatever you think it is worth? The only cost is your time and some effort.

All you need to do is open a Word document and start typing away. Get all that expert knowledge you’ve accumulated over the year/s and create your content. Just be sure that your content will actually be of value to your readers and reliable.

Pretty easy so far, right?

Now that your content is set, you can add pictures. If you can believe it, this is free also! Just use clip art or visit sites such as Freepixels.com, or MorgueFile.com. Another easy way to do this is to take your own pictures. Download them onto your computer and then upload them into your e-book. If you have a program such as Photoshop Elements you can create all types of variations of one simple photo.

That’s it! Now, it’s time to take your Word doc and upload it to Lulu.com, or other source. You can also use a pdf creator and change your word doc into a pdf file—you have an e-book!

Is that cool!

So, what can you do with that e-book you created . . . well, just about anything!

You can sell it on your site through Paypal or Google checkout, or use a shopping cart service; you can sell it through Lulu or Smashwords; you can offer it as a free gift to entice visitors to sign up for your newsletter. If you’re giving it away as a free gift to subscribers to your site, you can get even more bang for your effort by making it reprint allowable. This is a great way to increase your visibility, create backlinks, and bring traffic back to your site. You can also offer it as a combo with other works you have for sale. And, you will be establishing and promoting your expertise . . . you get the idea.

What? You’re not sure if you can do it on your own? That’s okay, don’t fret.

If you’re a little hesitant about undertaking this task, there is help available at Karen Cioffi Freelance Writer. Whether you’re an author looking for exposure and promotion, or you want to offer a free gift on your site, or want to earn some money with it . . . if you’re a business looking to increase traffic and visibility and sales . . . contact me today.

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MORE ON WRITING

Writing Software for Writers

Writing with Focus

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Creating and Beefing Up the Conflict

Your story has a great beginning—a great hook that will capture the reader instantly. You have an interesting, funny, or mischievous protagonist who will keep the reader engaged. But will it be enough to keep the reader turning the pages to end? Is there something missing?

Children’s stories aren’t what they use to be. Granted many stories of years ago did have conflict, they would not cut it in today’s children’s market.

In today’s children’s writing world, writing must be tight and focused. And, you need conflict. The conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, or under it.

Examples You Can Use to Create and Beef up the Conflict:

Tommy wants more than anything to play baseball, but he’s not very good. The other boys never willingly choose him for their team. How will Tommy overcome this problem?

What if Tommy gets the best bat and glove on the market—will this make him a better ball player?

Kristen’s friends all have new bikes, but she has her older sister’s hand-me-down. Kristen needs to figure out a way to get a new bike.

What if Kristen finally gets a new bike and leaves it unattended at the park. It gets stolen. She’s afraid to tell her parents, so keeps this little bit of information to herself. But, how long can she keep this up.

What if Billy has a run in with the school bully and ever since he’s harassed everyday. How can Billy get out of this mess?

So, the way to create and build conflict is to use “how” and “what if” to generate conflict and get your story off the ground and flying.

In the article “What to Aim For When Writing,” Margot Finke advises, “A slow build up of tension gives good pace. Dropping hints and clues builds tension, which in turn moves your story along. Short, punchy sentences give better pace than longwinded lines."

For chapter books, middle grade, and young adult, Finke advises to keep the reader engaged by ending each paragraph with a kind of cliff-hanger. This doesn’t mean you need a life and death scenario, just something that entices the reader to move onto the next chapter to find out what happens. In addition, to increase your story’s pace in certain sections, use shorter chapters. Chapters with 5-7 pages creates the sense of a quicker pace.

Related Articles:

How do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeepers
Borrowing From Superheroes

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Karen Cioffi Writing for Children


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Friday, May 7, 2010

5 Steps to Becoming an Author and Writing Workshop Update

I know this is a week after the workshop, I've been trying to catch up with work I have to do. I haven't even prepared my The Writing World Newsletter for May yet. I'm hoping to get to it before the end of the weekend.

The Writing for Children - A Beginner's Workshop, I'm pleased to say, went great. In fact, I give myself a green star! LOL, not really, I just like the picture.

It was a lot of work preparing for; I created an exercise and answer document, that I turned into a pdf at a couple of the attendee's request, as well as a workshop guide e-book.

Then, I decided to create another e-book: Writing for Children One Step at a Time. This e-book is over 100 pages and full of great writing and marketing tips and resources. I'm hoping to publish it through Lulu.com or Smashwords.com over the summer.

There were 8 winners of either an e-book or critique of 250 words and comments from the attendees were great. I'm hoping to be giving another free workshop some time in the summer.

One attendee, Susanne Drazic, was gracious enough to send me a testimonial:

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Writing for Children - A Beginner's Workshop. The information and resources were well presented and easily understood. The exercises were challenging and the feedback I received helped me in learning some of my weak areas in writing. I think this will be a wonderful workshop for all beginning writers to take. It is also a great refresher course for anyone who has been writing for awhile, but finds themselves struggling.

Susanne Drazic
PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER
http://susannedrazic at blogspot.com/

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By presenting this workshop I put into practice things I've learned about writing and marketing. It's great to learn what to do, but if we don't apply what we've learned, we stand still.

5 Basic Rules to Follow if you want to Become an Author

1. Learn the craft of writing. Even seasoned writers are always honing their skills.

2. Join a critique group and writing groups with new and experienced writers.

3. If you can afford it, work with a writing coach. This really does make a difference. You get answers to all your questions along with guidance and advice. Just be sure the coach knows her buisiness.

4 Learn about marketing and book promotion. If you look, you'll find many free teleclasses on how to promote and market your books. Take advantage of them.

5. Pay it forward. Help other writers who are starting out. Okay, I know this isn't a prerequisite to becoming an author, but it should be. :)

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MORE ON WRITING

The Elevator and One Sentence Pitch
Writing an Ebook – What’s Stopping You? Part 1 of 4 Part Series

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Need a ghostwriter or editor?

Karen Cioffi Freelance Writer
For Businesses and Individuals

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Inbound Marketing: New Big Boy on the Block

The new big boy on the marketing block is Inbound Marketing. He used his muscles and pushed the older Traditional Marketing strategy to the side.

Okay, before you readers who do use traditional marketing get riled, I’ll be the first to agree that this strategy of marketing, specifically person-to-person networking geared toward referrals and business, is still alive and well.

But, for the online marketer, inbound marketing is the strategy that leads the race. Searching online is the first choice of people looking for products, services and information.

In case you’re not familiar with what’s involved in inbound and traditional marketing here’s an overview:

Traditional Marketing

We’re all very familiar with traditional marketing. I’m sure most of us have been annoyed at one time or another by the telemarketer, television commercials and infomercials, and radio plugs. There is also the newspaper advertising, and don’t forget the environmentalist’s arch enemy: junk mail.

This form of marketing is considered invasive. You are the target and the marketing companies take broad aim and bombard you with funny, stupid, crazy, confusing, annoying, dumbing down, and once in a while informative commercials and advertisements. These marketing tools go so far as to invade the privacy of your own home.

With traditional marketing, the potential customer is not looking for your product or anything similar. Again, the marketing company is taking a broad aim and spraying as large a target as possible in the hope of snagging a customer.

Inbound Marketing

While traditional marketing slaps you in the face with their promotions, inbound marketing gently taps you on the shoulder through Search Engines.

In fact, the inbound marketer doesn’t really even tap the potential customer—it cleverly uses information or entertainment as a means of drawing traffic to a website or blog.

So, instead of television, newspapers, and junk mail, inbound marketing uses blogs, article marketing, and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Digg, and Technorati.

In regard to blogging, the inbound marketer provides content that his niche target is looking for. When the target does a Google search to find out how to market a book, the search engines provide a number of places the target can find this information. Depending on your ranking in the particular search engine being used will determine how far up or down on the listing provided your site will be.

One of the key factors in ranking high in the search engines is to use keywords in your title and content. In addition to this, the content must be valuable to the target audience, your title must be representative of the content, and you need to post regularly. Write with an objective and make your content exceptional.

Related articles:

3 Article Marketing Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Optimize Your Efforts
Email Marketing – 8 Must-Have Elements in Your Subscriber Welcome


Monday, May 3, 2010

Informational Videos vs. Articles

Are Videos Worth the Time?

Lately, it seems everyone is providing information through videos. Yes, they’re nice, presentable, and the newest thing to do. I know that personal touch is supposed to be very important--you can put a voice and face to the information being provided. And, in some ways, such as seeing a procedure done visually, they may be beneficial. But, I find them time consuming and for that reason, bothersome.

Everyone gathers a great deal of information online, such as information on writing, marketing, affiliate marketing, and research for articles. Often, we’re in a rush and don’t have time to sit through a 15, 30, or 60 minute video to glean the information we want. So, what do we do? We exit out of the site, thinking we’ll come back when I have more time. But guess what? Nine out of ten times we don’t go back.

Time is a problem for everyone today. We’re bombarded with information, things to do, places to go…and that’s not including work! There just aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week. The videos take up time.

Aside from the time element, there are many people who would rather read. While listening to videos, you have to sit with pad and pen…listen intently…then write quickly when you hear information you want to save. Try to be sure not to miss anything because if you do, you have to go back and try to find the spot you need. Also, if you are trying to follow the information in the video, say to create a website, it’s very difficult to view a video while you’re working on a site.

Although, I do realize the personal touch is important, it is much easier to read an article, save it, and then go back to it when you have the time. At that point, you can quickly scan the article and highlight the information that is pertinent. You have it indefinitely at your finger tips and available whenever you need it.

The problem that happens when a strategy takes off (whether beneficial or not) is it’s hard to stop. So, what can be done for those who prefer reading?

Well, that depends on whether the presenter wants to put forth additional effort. If they do, they can also provide the information in an article or PDF document. It’s much easier to follow a step-by-step document than go back and forth through a video. While this will be more work for the presenter it will ensure faithful return visits from readers who don’t have time for videos. Ezinearticles.com uses this strategy for their posts and I am grateful.

Technology is ever advancing, but if it’s at the cost of readership maybe the new trend should be adjusted a bit. If a writer or marketer is interested in having followers from the reading and video arenas, they will go that extra step and cater to both. I’ll be waiting patiently for that new trend to take hold.

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:

4 Basic Website Questions Landing Page Must Answer and Answer Quickly
Online Marketing – 3 Steps to Making Money Even If You Don’t Have Your Own Product or Service

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Karen Cioffi
Platform Building with Content Marketing

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Author Jane Kennedy Sutton Talks about Hook Beginnings for Children' s Books

It’s May 1st already. Can you believe the year is almost half over? Yikes! Well, let’s not worry about time now. Instead, let’s focus our attention on the talented author, Jane Kennedy Sutton.

While living in Europe, the Far East and the Middle East, Jane considered herself a “professional tourist.”  She is now a resident of Florida. Her first novel, The Ride, was released in 2008. Her second novel, Reigning Cats and Dogs, is due to be released later this year.

The Ride received a five-star review from Midwest Book Review. It has been described as a funny but poignant mis-adventure of a desperate housewife who is taken on the ride of her life—in more ways than one.

Jane Kennedy Sutton discusses hook beginnings for children’s books:

As an author of adult novels, I don’t believe there’s anything harder than coming up with the perfect first line that sets the stage for all that’s to come in a story. As a grandmother, I’ve discovered that books for children are no exception to the, “capture the reader with the first line” rule. In fact, I’d say it’s even more important for a young audience.

Through the many books I’ve read to my grandson, I’ve noted that there are several effective methods used by children’s authors to grab the attention of their young audience.

1)    Start the book in the middle of the action (this is one of the best ways to begin regardless of the age of the audience)

“Where's Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” (Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White)

The night Max wore his wolf suit of one kind and another, his mother called him WILD THING and Max said, ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.” (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)

2)    Clever use of description

Pirates have green teeth—when they have any teeth at all. (How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long)
In the great green room There was a telephone And a red balloon And a picture of The cow jumping over the moon (Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown)

3)     Sound Effects
Chug,chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. (The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper)
Zum. Zum buzzz, Zum. Zum. Buzz. (Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett)

4)    Ask a question
"Is your mama a llama?" I asked my friend Dave.  (Is Your Mama A Llama by Deborah Guarino)

How does a dinosaur say good night when Papa comes in to turn off the light? (How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? By Jane Yolent and Mark Teague)

5)     That old favorite, “Once upon a time,” always seems to work

Once upon a time in the dark of the moon there was a little raccoon. (Wait Till the Moon is Full by Margaret Wise Brown)

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Jeremy who lived with his mother in a small house near the sea.  (The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer by Jimmy Carter)
Do you know other effective ways to begin a child’s story? What are some of your favorite opening lines?

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I love the first line from Charlotte’s Web. Talk about hook beginnings—what child wouldn’t want to find out what Papa is doing with that ax.

Jane, thank you so much for sharing this writing tip and these great first liners with us. It has been a delight to feature you.

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MORE ON WRITING

Library Skills for Writers
The Elevator and One Sentence Pitch

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Karen Cioffi Writing for Children