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Margot Finke's of Writing for Children





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Margot Finke

Advice and suggestions on how to write tight
and terrific chapters that get you published!




Listen to a

of Margot talking about her "Content" Manuscript Critiques,
and how they can help you become a published author




Do You Have a Problem Picture Book?


is NOW AVAILABLE to work on manuscript critiques:
Scroll below to learn more about her services.





with my
"Personal Guidance"


Always aim
for the WOW factor!

Rewrite often - Read lots of children's books - Join a critique group.
Put your story aside for a while and allow the concept to
mature. These are golden rules for writers who
are already published.


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Personal Guidance




This Page Offers:

*My Critique Service . . . . + Testimonials

*What To Aim For When Writing

Recommended Writing Classes

* A Crit Success Story

* Types of Publishers

I Can Help You Fine-tune Your Picture Book or Chapters!


I am always happy to chat about writing




Types of Publishers:

Courtesy of:

Karen L. Syed, Echelon Press:
Life as a Publisher: Twitter: @KarenLSyed


I came across Karen's excellent description of the various types of publishers, and I hope it proves helpful.

Because. . . If you are at the stage of poking around my website, looking over my professional manuscript critique services, you will also be considering what to do about publishing your masterpiece.

*Go traditional - but what? Small or large?
*Self-publish as an e-Book?
*Or try POD?
*What about a Vanity Press?

This information will help you make your decision an educated one.

Whatever you finally decide,

make sure you research "the one"with great care.
Jumping in without doing your homework can be an expensive mistake.

Vanity Publisher - a company that you pay a flat rate to produce your work with no future compensation from them.

Self-Publisher - a person that creates their own entity to produce their personal works with all revenue going to them directly. This can include print and eBook publication.

eBook Publisher - a company that acquires and contracts an author's works with the promise of compensation in the form of royalties for all units sold. This does not include print production.

Micro-Press Publisher - a traditional type publisher that pays royalties but publishes 10 or less titles. NOTE: Some pay small advances - some do not.

Small-Press - a company that acquires publication rights from an author to publish their work with the promise of compensation in the form of royalties for all units sold. This can and usually does include print and eBook. NOTE: Some pay small advances - some do not.

Legacy Publisher - traditional companies generally known in the industry as the Big Six (or other larger corporations that have in the past set the standards for publications. Companies that acquire publication rights from an author to publish their work with the promise of compensation in the form of royalties for all units sold. These companies (in the past) have held the monopoly on distribution. This is changing though.) This now includes print and eBook in many cases. NOTE: Most do pay advances.

Publication/Print Technology:

Offset printing
- the production of multiple units/books done on a specific type of printer that allows for a less expensive cost per unit price.

POD/Print on Demand
- the production of units/books done on a digital type printer with a slightly higher cost per unit price to compensate for the excess waste of paper not used with multiple copy runs. The units produced at one time usually run from 1 - 5000. There is variation in that number depending on the printer.

Electronic Books - the production of units/books developed in an electronic format that allows for the download of materials without the necessity for an actual in hand product. However, some companies still produce eBooks on CD roms or flash drives for convenience to their customers.

Audio Books - well you know, books on tape, CD, MP3 etc. The spoken word version of books.

There are obviously others, but these are the basics.






Margot's Books


Rattlesnake Jam -- Kangaroo Clues

Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind

Horatio Humble Beats the Big D

Mama Grizzly Bear -- Prairie Dog Play Days

Never Say BOO to a Frilly --

Squirrels Can't Help Being Nuts

Dreamtime Man -- OSCAR is Different

Kpbi Borros a Pouch



Taconi and Claude -Double Trouble

Trial by Walkabout -- Down Under Calling

The Revenge of Thelma Hill --

Daisy and Bartholomew Q.

Kid friendly and fun.





What to Aim For When Writing


* Do you know what a protagonist's voice is?
*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 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 clarity.


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.


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.


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.



Visit my "Editing Tip Sheet " and "Powerful Writing Tips" for suggestions on editing and tightening your manuscript.

Do you want step-by-step help? If so, read my archived "Musings" columns.


Bonnie 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.



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Margot's Critique Service
Picture Books - Mid-grades - YA

Personal Guidance is My Specialty!

I need to READ your manuscript
before I quote you a final fee.


. . . .. ....*Payment & Manuscript Details

+ Information for
Writers of MG and YA Books.


*Picture Books *

Most publishers require a 32 page picture book to be no well under 1,000 words. Small kids have short attention spans, and printing cost, are the reasosn PBs need to be short and sweet. Colored illustrations are expensive to print, and should be kept to approx. 10-12 per book. Stories with more than 1,000 words need extra pages, and added illustrations. The extra printing cost makes can make them too expensive.

* I am always happy to chat with you about your writing.

Read Testimonials




E-Mail Me

( 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

An "In-depth" Overview offers more comments, suggestions, and a few helpful examples. . . . My fee for this is $50.00


( Non-rhyming )

An In-depth Critique

This includes 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 $70.00

I do charge extra if I have to prune hundreds of words
or rework your story.

( 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 $75.00

Note: 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 YA


E-Mail Me -

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

An In-depth Critique -

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 $90.00.

NOTE: Contact ME if you want an idividual quote on a Critique or Overview of a complete manuscript.


For Writers of MG and YA Books

Critiquing 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.

When 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.


Long delays between chapters, unless this is agreed upon ahead of time, will force me to withdraw my help - without refund!



Click on PayPal to pay via their service.

This link takes you to the Pay Pal SIGN IN PAGE. You must then go to your
SEND or PAY MONEY page and use my email to send the fee I have quoted you

(You must be a PayPal member to pay this way)

* For payment by personal check, please
for my address.


Due to several unfortunate experiences in the past, I require my fee before I return your completed critique.
Payment in US dollars only!





#1 - Please send me your manuscript or chapters as a Word (.doc or .docx) attachment.

#2 -
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 YA books.

#5 - E-Mail Me for "Special Quotes" on multiple chapters.

#6 - My fee entitles you to only one critique of the chapters you send, plus a quick look through if needed later, to make sire you "got" it. However, I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Each page will have comments, suggestions, and if needed, examples that explain how to rework something.

#7 - Requiring me to rewrite sections of your manuscript means that I must charge a higher fee. Please E-Mail Me for further information.

NOTE: 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 in your genre` is what you need, rather than another critique.







Margot: 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 finish!

Much appreciated -



#1 - 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.

Best regards,
Jo Hackl


#2 - 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.

Thanks, Margot!

Laurie McCuddy


#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.

Denice Lewis

(E-mail addies to writers of the testimonials are available upon request)

+ Another Critique Success Story Below


A Critique Success!

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
"Winchell Mink"

Available in 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!

CLICK for information regarding a critique





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Recommended Writing Classes


Either In-person or Online

Please E-MAIL ( 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.

Recommended MFA Programs

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 Miller


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.


Spalding University in Kentucky also offers a low-residency MFA in writing for children


Chatham 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
Coolidge Hall
Woodland Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

NOTE:: Chatham is a women's college for undergrad, but men are welcome in the certificate and graduate programs.




Writing Classes by Individual Teachers


Anastasia 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.

Also Margaret Shauers' classes. Visit her website, or click on the following links for more information.

"Write Short Stories for Children"
"Children's Fiction: In-Depth Plotting"
"Write Tidbits for Tots Through Teens"

NOTE: These two classes are recommended by Jill Ronsley




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




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