Recently in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing Category

Article Writing for Kids' Magazines

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Writing nonfiction for magazines is a good way to break into print. Editors get less article submissions than they do fiction.

Often editors tell you what they are looking for. For example, Highlights for Children posts their current needs on submittable. Their info was updated in November. Jack and Jill submission guidelines state: "We are especially interested in features or Q&As with regular kids (or groups of kids) in the Jack and Jill age group who are engaged in unusual, challenging, or interesting activities." Root and Star is looking for nonfiction about water for their July/August 2019 issue (deadline end of March).

You may be familiar with big name magazines, but how do you find the smaller or lesser known ones? Via online sources such as Evelyn B. Christensen's site. Or this resource, Magazine Markets for Children's Writers that comes out annually. Check out libraries and bookstores to see physical copies of print magazines as well. Then you can search online for these magazines' submission guidelines.

You've chosen a market, and even a topic, now what? Research. Here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Don't solely use internet sources. Editors will appreciate that you've used books, magazines, interviews, etc.

  • Wikipedia is only useful in giving you an overview that may or may not be accurate, and when you use it to follow up with the sources listed at the bottom of an article.

  • As you take notes, record where you got the information. You'll send the bibliography of your sources with your article. There are now apps and software that can keep track of this information for you. This site lists some options.

  • Using quotes in an article can really bring it to life. Copy these verbatim as you research.

  • Be prepared that your research might take you in a different direction from your plan.

  • Go deep with research and you may find some fascinating facts that will make your article pop.

Here's a great resource on finding credible sources.

Before you write your article, ask yourself, "What is the main point I want to get across to my reader?" With that in mind you will create a more focused piece.

Next, get organized. Create a simple outline. It can be as basic as:
• Introduction
• Section one (be specific to your topic!)
• Section two
• Section three
• Conclusion

Now write your first draft.

When finished, make sure each paragraph (or two) fits the topic of the outlined section. (It's okay to adjust your outline, but paragraphs should have a mini-theme. Some magazines even use headers for sections and your simple outline can become those headers.)

Check the beginning. Is your title intriguing in some way? Does the opening draw a reader in? It could ask a question, be a short anecdote, make a provocative statement, etc.

Is the middle meaty? Full of good details? Interesting? More than what is general public knowledge.

Check the end. Does your article have a satisfying conclusion or just dribble to a stop? Sometimes, articles conclude with a statement that makes the piece feel it has come full circle--or in other words, the end ties back to the beginning.

Prepare your bibliography. There are many online resources on how to write one, but this website has links to how to include almost anything.

After setting your article aside for a week or two, come back and revise. If you have a critique group or beta readers, share and revise again.

Prepare to send...

Double check that:
• your article fits the required word count of the magazine.
• the accuracy of your quotes.
• the magazine's deadline hasn't passed.
• how to submit (electronically, through a form, via postal mail).
• write a query or cover letter, if necessary, and proofread carefully.
• read your article through one more time, checking for grammar and spelling errors.
• proof your bibliography.

Send. And make up a list of possible other places to send the article to if you get a rejection. (This may require further revisions or slanting.)

If you get an acceptance, celebrate! You're a soon-to-be published (or republished) author.

Truths, Principles, and Wisdom

help-2478193_1280.jpgSome favorite articles/blog posts/essays about writing I've read recently along with appropriate quotes for each section.

WRITING IN GENERAL

"Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing." - Melinda Haynes

"25 Truths About the Work of Writing" by Greer Macallister
https://writerunboxed.com/2018/09/03/25-truths-about-the-work-of-writing/

"3 Principles for Finding Time to Write" by Jane Friedman
https://www.janefriedman.com/finding-time-to-write/

SOCIAL MEDIA

"Use your social media to create long-term connections with readers and authors alike. Engage with followers in an organic way without constantly peddling your wares." - Saritza Hernandez

"Is Tweeting a Must for Authors?" by Dear Editor aka Deborah Halverson http://deareditor.com/2018/10/re-is-tweeting-a-must-for-authors/

Children's Book Authors Are Selling More Than Books. They're Taking a Stand.
by Maria Russo
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/books/childrens-books-authors-activists-politics.html

PICTURE BOOKS

"A picture book must have lots of potential for illustration. If nothing much changes visually in the story, then it may not be a good fit for a picture book." - Kim Norman

Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski-"How Do You Know If You've Written a Picture Book?"
https://www.highlightsfoundation.org/10105/guest-post-darcy-pattison-and-leslie-helakoski-how-do-you-know-if-youve-written-a-picture-book/

Word Banks for Picture Books - "At a Loss for Words? Try Making a Word Bank by: Barb Rosenstock for Sherri Jones Rivers" https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2018/10/at-loss-for-words-try-making-word-bank.html

NOVELS

"Make your novel readable. Make it pleasant to read. This doesn't mean flowery passages; it means strong, simple, natural sentences." - Laurence D'Orsay

"The Process of Novel Writing: Transitions" by Jan Fields at the Institute for Writers - a newsletter you may want to subscribe to
https://www.instituteforwriters.com/the-process-of-novel-writing-transitions.aspx

"Use Theme to Determine Subplots, Supporting Characters, and Tension" by Becca Puglisi
https://writershelpingwriters.net/2018/05/use-theme-to-determine-subplots-supporting-characters-and-tension/

Do you have some favorite articles to share? Please put them in the comments.

Looking Everywhere

detective-1424831_640.pngI've done it myself and seen other writers do it too--have characters look up, down, around, at someone or something, etc. Many, many, many times. And changing the words from look to gaze, stare, watch, or what other synonym you can find, doesn't improve the writing much. On a discussion board a writer said, "Just did a search of 'look' on my main story, and I've used it 600 times across 200 pages." That's three per page! Unfortunately, the writer didn't get much helpful advice. (You can read the conversation here if you're interested.)

Deborah Halverson of DearEditor.com taught me, "Stop looking." Instead we can show setting, character, etc. by using other actions.

What is something your main character does habitually? Or what nervous habit does he have? A character might play with the zipper pull of his jacket (indicates something about what he is wearing, jingle her keys or coins (which gives us a nice sensory detail), or twist his long hair and tuck it up under a beany (character description plus clothing item).

What can a character do besides look at what's around them? React in some way. She might bark a cough in the dusty air (sensory and setting detail), run his thumbnail over the rough spot on the surface of the table (sensory and setting, plus possibly revealing the character's attention to detail), or sniff at the fragrance of cinnamon and apple from the pie cooling on the counter (sensory that might indicate hunger and makes my mouth water versus someone simply looking at a pie cooling on the counter).

Writing a novel should not include stage direction. I suspect in screenplays that minor aspects such as "looking" are left to the actor to figure out. Your readers will figure this out, too. For example: My dog just asked to go out. I looked at her. I looked at the lock on the slider door to unlock it. When I opened the door to let her out, I looked outside. When I closed the door, I looked at the lock to lock it. Argghh. It's all true, but painful reading. Instead I might write something like this: My dog whined to go out. I unlocked the slider and opened it for her. Cold air rushed into the house from the gray fall morning. I used some sensory details, so it is more interesting. You know I looked outside because I told you what it looked like, but I didn't use the word look. I didn't need to.

Avoid the mundane in our writing. When a character talks to someone, unless we point out that they can't or aren't doing so, they are probably looking at the other person. The assumption doesn't need to be reinforced. It's ordinary. And even if the character isn't, is it important enough to say so? Similarly, in my last example, a reader will assume that the dog and I walked to the door without me stating it.

Does that mean a writer should never use the word look? Of course not. But like in many areas of our writing, we don't want to be lazy. Use it where needed. But you'll probably find on close examination (during revisions) that the verb isn't needed near as many times as you have used it.

How Excel Can Help Creatives

notebook-1850613_1920.jpgI've talked several times about writing expenses and income, and often share my spreadsheet templates via email. (See posts here and here.) But this time I decided I should share them for free downloading.

The first is an expense template--this will work for writers or illustrators. Feel free to customize how it best works for you. I initially set this up based off of Schedule C, and still find it helpful when using TurboTax. It is set up to do automatic calculations for each month, and then monthly totals are transferred to the year-end sheet. It also has two extra sheets where I keep track of use of cars and equipment depreciation, and cost of goods sold.

Expense Template.xlsx

I also have an income template: Income Template.xlsx

But is that it? Is Excel only for numbers? I don't find it so.

Some of the useful spreadsheets I have are a writing day log and a critique group log. These show dates, where we met, and who I met with. These are backups for my expense sheets and make for easy comparisons versus searching all my emails for when and where we agreed to meet. Here are those templates:
Critique Meeting Log Template.xlsx
Writing Day Log Template.xlsx

I also have two excel spreadsheets related to agents. One has agent information I've collected from sites and newsletters. (These are agents I think I might want to submit to.) Each agent gets their own tab (sheet) and I add more information and updates as I find it. I could use a Word Table as well for this, but entries get pretty lengthy.

The other spreadsheet is for agents who have rejected me. It includes name, agency, date, and form or personal rejection. I'm querying on a specific manuscript right now, but that could be info for another column. A Word Table would probably work as well.

Some people use spreadsheets for submission info. That could be for all submissions or for a specific manuscript.

If you don't have Excel, consider Google Sheets--a great alternative. Though I mostly use Sheets for collating info from a Google Form I've created. Google Sheets are handy when you need to share a spreadsheet with someone else so you can both work on the same sheet. As soon as one makes a change, the info is updated.

Cutting Back on the Feed

firefighter-1851945_1280.jpgList serves, newsletters, blog posts, and social media can become a firehose blast of information. I love using them when I need inspiration or motivation to write. I search for info when I have questions or want more information on a topic. And I follow editors and agents to see what they are interested in and what they are talking about. But how do you know if you are involved in too much?

The answer will be different for each creative person at different times. At the beginning, we all have a lot to learn. A beginner should probably spend more time on absorbing information, learning craft, learning how the business works, and examining what is in the market now. Seasoned writers/illustrators should have a background of understanding--not that they can't learn more--so should spend less time. However, it all depends on your purpose for subscribing, joining, participating, reading, etc.

Here are some ideas to consider:

How much time a day do you spend on the following: taking in the feed of information, the business of writing/illustrating, creating, and revising? Your answers may be different each day, so you might need to chart a week or two to see what is actually happening. Be honest with yourself.

Is your schedule regularly out of balance? Whatever that balance should be for you, of course.

Do you have certain times that are dedicated to creating and/or revising? Are you allowing other things to interfere with those times?

Do you have too much to read in your allotted time? Or are you overwhelmed by how much there is?

Is some of the information not as valuable as it once was?

Are you learning something new?

Would receiving a list serve in digest format cut down on the number of emails sent from that group?

Do you need/enjoy the socialization you're getting or is it a drag on you mentally?

What are your current goals? You could be in a submission phase, so creating less, and that would be okay.

Are you actually creating? Are you making excuses for not creating? (ouch!) Or procrastinating? Chuck Wendig said, "Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not."

Answering these questions for yourself can help you determine if you need to adjust the feed. As Brooke Warner says, "For those of you dealing with too much too much too much, spend some time prioritizing." (From the post 3 Ways Writers Get Overwhelmed - and What to Do about It.)

My Coping Mechanisms:

Periodically I go through and unsubscribe from newsletters and blogs that I realize I'm not reading. Sometimes, I delete any nonpersonal posts over two months old. At times my life is too busy and I know something must go permanently, so I ruthlessly cut the "I would like to" reads and the "interesting, but not necessary" online writing groups.

In the past I've set myself a schedule allotting time for the tasks I want to complete. The only one that was allowed to exceed the scheduled time was creating. Some writers use a timer or install an app that nags. This can be to remind you to quit or to remind you to keep going.

Re-evaluation is necessary for me as life and creative needs change.

What are your coping mechanisms? Feel free to share in the comments. (If you can't see the comment box, click on the title above, then scroll down.)

Article Writing for Kids' Magazines

Truths, Principles, and Wisdom

Looking Everywhere

How Excel Can Help Creatives

Cutting Back on the Feed

More on Writing Expenses plus Income

Rushing to Submit

Electronic Submissions

Let's Get Help

Serving Up Tempting Titles

Continuous Verbs

Underwriting

Overwriting - Take Two

Recreating

Rejections

How Do I Scare My Readers?

How Do You Choose?

Finding Comp Titles

Writing for Children's Religious Magazines

A Fresh Look at Our Writing

Resources for Writing for Children's Magazines

Save Me!

Run Away Words

Novel-sized Problem

Emotions and Feelings

Sensory Details

Taglines and Beats

Successful Cover Letters

Diverse Books

Online Resources for Children's Writers and Illustrators

Rhyming Picture Books

Preparation and Practice for Public Speaking

Public Speaking Phobia

Authors in the Classroom

Why Twitter?

What Should I Describe?

Magazine Story or Picture Book?

Nonfiction Writing

Do It Myself!

Swift Fiction - The Short Story in Focus

What Stops Me Reading!

Distancing Your Reader

Resizing Photos for Use on Websites

Overwriting

Are List Serves a Service or a Waste of Time?

Reducing Word Count

MS Wish List

How to Stand Out

NAMING CHARACTERS - FROM MARY'S NOTEBOOK

Kids Reading Books and Saying What They Think

Retreat!

Selling Photos to Magazines

Poor Man's Copyright, a Myth

Missing Students

The Right Number of Characters

What Do You Do When You're Stuck?

Naming Your Character

Considering Self-Publishing?

When Educational Publishers Ask for Your Résumé

Say What?

Write Well When the Muse Is Sleeping

Writing Process Blog Tour

Truth in Fiction

Plodding or Plotting

Raise the stakes, honey!

One Size Does NOT Fit All

BACK UP!

175 Proof

He Thought to Himself and Other Excesses

Confessions of a Writer Easily Distracted

Is That Right?

Writing Business Expenses

Subjective

The Hero's Journey for Magazine Writers

Altitude and Attitude - Adult or Child?

Slow Down, You Move too Fast

Kidz Only! Adults Keep Out!

A Dark Side of Social Media

Do you struggle with grammar?

Can children and teens get their work published?

Patience Required

I'm a Work-in-Progress

Illustrator Resources

Inspiration from Kate DiCamillo

Are Listserves a Service or a Waste of Time?

Writing and Life Balance

How To Start Querying an Agent

WEBSITE Q&A

Nancy I. Sanders on Writing Nonfiction

Heartbroken?

Perfecting Dialogue Punctuation

Ouch! Thin Skin!

Agents Telling What They Want

School Visits, the Extended Version

Going Back to School

One of 75 finalists

Make It Work for You

Down with Discouragement!

Do as I Say

Professional Problem Maker

4 Ways to Make Your Characters "Talk Different"

Picture Book Month

Work-for-Hire Resources

Work-for-Hire Wisdom

Work-for-Hire also known as WFH

Picture Perfect Picture Books

Picture Book Resources

Author Talks versus Workshops

My Favorite Online Resources

Technicalities - More Thoughts on Public Speaking

Do as I Say

Theme List Tactics

What Would Sue Do?

Attribution or Action?

Don't Throw in the Towel

Do You Remember?

Dragged to the Podium

Double Identity - Pen Names

Before You Sign: Contract Resources

Welcome, Diane Bailey, Work-for-hire Champion

Ready, Set, Goal

An Editor's Day

How'd You Get That Gig?

On the Hunt for Ideas

Bloggers Supporting Other Bloggers

Shadowing a Submission

Give up or press on?

Turning Ideas Into Stories - Workshop

After the Critique

Keeping Track

The Synopsis Shrink

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part three

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part two

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part one

Standard Manuscript Format

CUT IN THE CRITIQUE

Critique Methods

Market Research Resources - Agents

THE SANDWICH OF CRITIQUE

CRITIQUE GROUPS: GO FOR IT!

Organizations and Groups

Writing a Novel? Where Does It Fit?

Meeting Editors and Agents - In Person

Meet Editors and Agents - Online

Book It! - Recording What You Read

Theme and Premise

Self-Editing Tips

The Story Ladder or Novel Timeline

Showing Versus Telling

Read, Read, Read

The Power of a Good First Line

Hooking your Reader

Listen to the Voices

DIALOGUE TIPS

Viewpoint in Children's Fiction

Making Friends: Character Development

Glossary of Publishing Terms

Genre Resources

Children's Book Genres

Why Write?