to Aim For When Writing
* Do you know what a protagonist's
*Must rhyming picture books have a good story line?
*Having trouble with your plot and dialog?
*A Hook? Focus? What are they and why do you need them?
Focus means knowing where your story is going and keeping it on
track. Focus is not allowing paragraphs or pages to develop a life
of their own and wander far from the main plot. NOTE: Keep
track of the small details. Make sure you take a character from point
A to point B before you have them pop up with dialogue. Always get
to the point via the shortest route and the least number of words.
Choose your words for their power and evocative content. When descriptions
and scenes go on too long, readers lose the thread. FOCUS on the details
of your plot, and avoid being sidetracked.
STORY ELEMENTS - Plot and Character Development
Story Development goes hand-in-hand with Focus. Before you begin
writing, have a rough idea of where the plot will take your characters.
Get your main POV (point of view) character set up fast. Your POV
needs a distinctive "voice." This means the way he talks,
the way he moves, and the way he interacts with others. Give him foibles,
or mannerisms that make him stand out as unique. Get to the meat of
the story ASAP. NOTE: Always
think kid! Editors (and kids) want actions, reactions, and great dialogue.
SENTENCE STRUCTURE -
Sentence structure needs clarity above all else, plus appropriate
grammar and punctuation. Great writers use words to paint pictures.
You never have to read their sentences twice to grasp their meaning.
Sentences need to be smooth and natural - like they came from the
mind of a real person - dialogue likewise. Active and powerful verbs
are a writer's best friend. Use a good thesaurus to find new, fresh,
and evocative adjectives. Be wary of adverbs - they mostly prop up
weak verbs. NOTE: Your sentences
need to draw your reader in, and show what is happening with absolute
TIGHT WRITING -
Tight writing is partnered with Sentence Structure. Never use ten
words when 5 will do the job. One wonderful adjective, plus a strong
verb, will give you a powerful sentence. Weak verbs, held up by an
adverb or two, plus a wishy-washy adjective, give you nothing an editor
will bother to read. If the sentence, paragraph or page, does not
move the story forward, CUT IT! NOTE: Overwriting
is common. This happens when you use too many words. Paint a clear
word picture and then move on. Waffles are for
breakfast, not for books.
Character enrichment means letting the reader into the heart and
soul of the POV. Do this by his actions, his dialogue, and his inner
thoughts and angst. Let him have faults that he overcomes. Let him
grow as a person. Make sure he has a distinctive "voice,"
one that remains constant throughout the story. Your reader wants
to root for, and identify with, your lead character. NOTE:
Rich characters have layers of interest. These layers are built
up chapter by chapter - a dab of information here, a little background
there, some dialogue that lets out a few secrets, etc. Dialogue that
is overheard by your POV can inject interesting facts or back- story
into the plot. Adding actions and reactions works. Beware of the "information
dump." This is when a huge chunk of detail or information is
dropped onto a page. Personal thoughts are a wonderful way of getting
into the head and heart of your POV.
THE ART OF THE "HOOK" - Writing That
"Hooks" Your Reader
Hooking your reader is simple. Plenty of action, dialogue, and
pace. You lose your reader when the story wanders away from the action
for too long. Build tension by seeding hints and clues. Offer portents.
Keep your writing tight. Especially in a mystery. NOTE:
End chapters with a hook - a cliffhanger thought or event that
lures the reader into turning the page. Make it so they can't resist.
PACE & TENSION
Overwriting (waffling) is the enemy of Pace. A slow build up of
tension gives good pace. Dropping hints and clues build tension, which
in turn moves your story along. Short, punchy sentences give better
pace than longwinded lines. NOTE:
Shorter chapters (5-7 pages) give a feeling of faster pace.
FINAL SUGGESTION -
Make the local librarian your friend - they love to help writers.
Your librarian can recommend classic, as well as just published books,
by authors who have the genre down cold. Dissect the plots and the
characters in the books you love, and you will discover what makes
them work so well.
M. Schram's "Verbs to Go," a Thesaurus
of Verbs, is now available on CD. This is a must have book for
all writers who want active and powerful verbs in their writing.
Cost is $20.00 including postage & shipping. Click Bonnie's
name, and check out her website for information about the extra
goodies that are offered with this CD.
Back to Top
Books - Mid-grades - YA
Personal Guidance is My Specialty!
need to READ your manuscript
before I quote you a final fee.
Most publishers require a 32 page picture
book to be no more than 1,000 words - preferably much
less. Printing cost is the reason PBs need to be short
and sweet. Colored illustrations are expensive to print,
and should be kept to approx. 12-14 per book. Stories
with more than 1,000 words need extra pages, and added
illustrations. The extra printing cost makes them too
* I am always
happy to chat with you about your writing.
(mfinke at frontier dot com)
( Non-rhyming )
An Overview -
If you are an advanced or published writer,
with a good grasp of English and grammar, I can read your
story, and then give you suggestions about adding that final
polish. This is useful for those who can rework the story
themselves, with only a little direction. . . . . . My
fee for this is $35.00
Overview offers more comments, suggestions, and
a few helpful examples. . . . My fee for this is $50.00
( Non-rhyming )
An In-depth Critique
everything in the overview, plus page by page comments and
suggestions, advice about word use, sentence length, illustrations,
and why PBs do need a great story. Helpful examples given
where necessary. . . . . . My basic fee for this is $60.00
Note: I do charge extra if I have to prune hundreds
of words or rework your
( Rhyming )
An In-depth Critique -
This gives you page by page help, plus
suggestions that guide you through the mystery of meter,
syllable count and rhyme. My useful examples will help you
develop a smooth meter. Word choice, beginnings and endings,
and the importance of story development is included.
. . . . My basic fee for this is $70.00
Working on correcting rhyme and meter is very time consuming,
so I do charge extra if your rhyme and meter is way off,
and I have to offer examples for almost every verse, or
the plot also needs strengthening.
Mid Grade OR
Me - ( mfinke
at frontier dot com
An Overview -
I can read your first three chapters,
and then give you helpful suggestions about sentence length,
word choice, beginnings and endings, POV, FOCUS, how to
hook your reader, plus story development, etc. This is
useful if you are an advanced writer with a good grasp
of English and grammar, and feel you can rework the story
yourself, with only a little direction. . . . . . My fee
for this is $60.00
Three chapters - this would include
everything in the overview, plus page-by-page comments,
with suggestions and examples where necessary. Help with
the protagonist's voice, FOCUS, POV, dialogue & more.
. . . . My basic fee for this is $100.00.
ME (mfinke at frontier dot
if you want an idividual quote on a Critique or Overview
of a complete manuscript.
For Writers of MG and YA Books
a many chaptered book takes concentration and dedication
on both our parts. Extended time between chapter critiques
means I have to keep refreshing my memory about past
crits I sent, and the previous advice I offered. The
time this takes was not factored into my original quote.
I acept your manuscript for critique, I plan a specific
time for it, and work in other clients to fit this plan.
Months of delays between chapters plays havoc with my
time, other planned critiques, and my own writing schedule.
delays between chapters, unless this is agreed upon ahead
of time, will force me to withdraw my help - without
Click on PayPal
to pay via their service.
(You must be a PayPal member to pay this way)
For payment by personal check, please
E-MAIL ME ( mfinke at frontier dot
com )for my address.
to several unfortunate experiences in the past, I require my
fee before I return your completed critique. NOTE:
Payment in US dollars only!
#1 - Please send me your manuscript
or chapters as a Word (.doc - .docx) attachment.
The fees quoted above are only guidelines. After I read
your manuscript or chapters, I will get back to you with an
initial evaluation, and quote you my fee based on that evaluation,
and what I feel will make your story shine.
#3 - DO NOT send artwork unless requested.
#4 - I require
a detailed Synopsis for in-depth critiques of Mid Grade and
Me ( mfinke at frontier dot com
) for "Special Quotes"
on multiple chapters.
#6 - My fee entitles you to only one critique of the chapters
you send me. However, I am happy to answer any questions you might
have. Each page will have comments, suggestions, and if neeed,
examples that explain how to change something.
- Requiring me to rewrite sections
of your manuscript means that I must charge a higher
fee. Please E-Mail
Me ( mfinke at frontier dot com
) for further information.
If my detailed critique is not enough to help you rework your
pages into a tighter, more active and powerful story, then perhaps
taking a writing lesson or two, and reading lots of books is what
you need, rather than another critique.
I just wanted to let you know that you gave me the BEST advice
I EVER got from any writer. I consider myself very very lucky
to learn from you.
As a result, I did not rush
to submit this story - instead I'm taking all your comments and
suggestions to heart and taking each scene - one step at a time
until I finally figure out what it is I am really trying to say.
That's my journey.
I love how you presented
and modeled the information suited for me, by showing exactly
what I need to do, to carefully craft this story from start to
Much appreciated -
- I have used Ms.
Finke's critique service for three very different pieces and can
recommend her service without reservation. She is professional,
prompt, responsive and creative. Her line by line edits accompanied
by detailed technical and structural comments were just what I
needed to take my pieces to the next level. I look forward to
sending her more pieces for critique.
- When writing for children, every word
has to count. Margot's critique of my manuscript helped to tighten
it even more than I thought was possible. After I re-wrote it
with her suggestions in mind, I couldn't believe how much better
it sounded, without losing any of the story. She has a keen eye
and a great sense of humor, which I could tell right away just
from her emails. I wish I could meet her in person. I will definitely
use her again.
#3 - I had the pleasure of working
with Margot Finke on my manuscript for nine months. Her diligent
professionalism and expertise in the field was invaluable. I would
recommend her to anyone who wants to work with a tough, but caring
critic who is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
(E-mail addies to writers of the testimonials
are available upon request)
+ Another Critique Success Story
When Winchell was still learning
how to con an editor into reading him, I critiqued his fun
doings for Steve. What a hoot!
Steve (talent to burn) Young's
all bookstores that encourage a good laugh.
I was lucky enough to giggle and belly laugh
my way through an early version of the wild, boy becomes turtle,
and much more, saga. The kid in me loved it. I made a few suggestions.
Steve asked for more. Before I knew it, I had critiqued Winchell's
turtle tale, his python persona, and his dinosaur drama. I went
head-to-head with Bobby Plungerbutt and his "personal"
problems. I was still laughing when I finished.
Right off, I knew "Winchell Mink"
was a winner. I'm betting both H.C. and Steve will laugh all the
way to the bank!
for information regarding a critique
In-person or Online
( mfinke at frontier dot com ) me information
about great writing classes you have attended, or classes that have
been recommended by writing friends who did attended.
An online course through "Vermont
College," home of the MFA in
Writing for Children Program. For more information, write to: Alice
Eichholz Ph.D., C.G. Director of Lifelong Learning
Union Institute & University
36 College Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
email: Alice Eichholtz
Class information: With a focus on individual
writing, students learn the elements of a good story -- from picturebook
to young adult novel. Each session features readings that provide
a foundation in elements of writing. You will then explore and discuss
how these elements fit into their own writing. through the workshops.
Learning to read as a writer is fundamentally important to your
success as a writer.
Each week we will examine one element as we read classic, award-winning
children's literature, exploring how these authors make it work.
Students will then apply these principles to their writing.
NOTE: this information comes from Bobbi
This group comes
with a recommendation that you research them all with care.
1 - Seton
Hill: University's unique Master of
Arts in Writing Popular Fiction teaches students to write marketable
novels in popular genres like mystery, romance, science fiction, horror,
and fantasy. Additional specialties include Literature for Children
and Adolescents, and cross-genre blends like romantic suspense
or young adult mysteries.
2 - Hollins
University: (which I beleive to be children's specific) Faculty
includes Alexandria LaFaye; Han Nolan, and Ruth Sanderson.
College has an MFA program in creative
writing in which you can specialize in writing for children and adolescents.
They alsothey have a certificate program in writing for children and
adolescents. The head of the program is Kathy Ayres, a gifted teacher
and writer. For more information by snail mail, the address is: Chatham
College Creative Writing Program
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
NOTE:: Chatham is a women's college for undergrad, but men are welcome
in the certificate and graduate programs.
Classes by Individual Teachers
Suen's Intensive Writing Workshop and her Creative
Habit Workshop, are among the best you can attend. Browse through
her website and decide which class fits your writing needs. You
won't regret it!!
NOTE: Recommended by Margot
Finke ( mfinke at frontier dot com)
How about Susan
Letham: Susan is just wonderful! Go to her website for more information
plus class details.
ICL - Institute
of Children's Literature Not the cheapest classes you can take,
but they are online, they do provide financing, and many of their
great instructors are CW listmembers. Go to their website and read
what they have to offer. Many who have taken their classes say they
are the BEST!
NOTE:Recommended by Margot Finke. . . .
Juliet is also taking an ICL class and is very impressed
with their "Writing For Children" course.
* ICL provides indifidual instructors