At the Write to Publish Conference this year, Jesse Florea, Editorial Director with Focus on the Family taught a class: How to be Great Writer of Children's Stories. He gave permission to share these important tips. I've added the details.
1. Know your audience. It is all to easy to pooh pooh this category. Writers need to watch vocabulary-keep it high enough for the oldest reader in the category, interest, topic, theme, jokes, length of sentence, speed-high action, and etc. Consider your audience and write to them.
2. Think like a child when writing for children when expanding the text. Likewise think like whoever your audience is. When writing for children you can say "as big as a school" because they would understand that. Don't say in 1926. Do say: when your great grandmother because it is a time reference they understand. A good example of a story book knocking this out of the park: Sally Lloyd Jones: How to be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister.
3. Work on a gripping opening. You only have ten seconds, three sentences to lock your readers into the story. The story must be like sticky fly paper where the readers simply can't leave. They must finish the story.
4. Use vibrant active verbs. Never start a sentence with It or There. Also avoid is, was, and were. A good writer can rewrite, editing any of these words out of a sentence. This does not mean you cannot use state of being words. Use them only when absolutely necessary.
5. Don't go adjective crazy: One well chosen adjective is better than three strung together. Brevity is clarity. More is not better. When using a dialogue tag, just use said. Don't use fluff words like shouted, growled, huffed, begged imploringly, etc.
6. Do use interesting dialogue: Inject the dialogue with great verbs. Let your characters say believable and appropriate words. Do not use cool phrases like hot or narly
7. Watch POV filtering. Bad-He heard the car horns. Good-The car horns blared.
8. Use humor freely. Collect funny things and keep them in your hat. If someone laughs when you tell a story in a group figure out what made them laugh and make a repertoire of these. Give your story a pulse with humor.
For children and as appropriate for others use:
Repetition: poke little puppy,
Switches: Freaky Friday
Word play: Louis always did things left, batted left...but his coach told him to play the game right.
Exaggeration: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
9.Don't wrap up your story in a nice little bow. When you end a story be honest, even if happily ever after is not the result. The ending should leave the reader with an ultimate satisfaction AND a tinge of dissatisfaction for flavoring.
10. Stay out of cliché land. Don't go there. Readers love love to read new phrases. One of my favorites is from Devil Wears Prada when Miranda says "Go ahead and move at a glacial pace, you know how it pleases me." Isn't that awesome? Some writers slip cliches into dialogue. Avoid this at all cost. Use your creative writing genius instead and wow your readers.
11. Leave readers with a nugget of truth. A story is pointless without a nugget of truth, in any genre.
12. Be creative. God created. He created us in His image. We are to be like Him. Therefore we are creative. Don't follow the world repeating what has been done. Be a leader with writing.
13. Write compelling characters. How many of these do you know? Scarlett. Rhett. Belle. Clark Kent. Giver. Gatsby. Harry Potter. Tigger. Jack Ryan. Will your characters be compelling?
13. Follow the rules. Brainstorm ideas with others. Outline the story. Work through the draft. If necessary do thirty or more revisions before sending the book to an editor/agent. Watch the word count and format.
14. Know the industry. Trend entertainment. Watch the trailers of what is coming out. What do readers buy? What are readers raving about?
15. Be yourself. Readers can spot a phony a mile away (whoops, a cliché!) Write who you are. Clues that the writing is an imitation bleed through the pages and mar the story.
Your turn. Which is your favorite tip?
Which is the dreaded tip?
If you can't decide, please take a second to say howdie doo. Standing in the Alley alone is no fun.
Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.