Monday, March 19, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Book Packagers

Series books are often written under pseudonyms by a variety of authors, such as:

Little Animal Arc by Lucy Daniels published by Hodder

Beast Quest books by Adam Blade published by Orchard Books but created by the fiction packager Working Partners

Rainbow Magic Fairies by Daisy Meadows also published by Orchard Books created by the fiction packager Working Partners

Fiction packagers come up with the ideas in-house and they will write a detailed outline saying what needs to go in every chapter. They then have a selection of authors on their list who they will ask to write the first three chapters. They often ask more than one author and choose the one they like best.

Their favourite chapters are presented to publishers and if the publisher likes them, they will commission the writer to write the proposed book in the series or maybe four of the desired books. They will then go through the same process again for the next idea for a story in the series. So each book is written by a different author. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Writing 4 Children - Jackie Marchant

In the March 2018 issue of Writers Forum I interviewed Jackie Marchant about her Dougal Daley books. They are funny mid-grade stories about a young boy who always seems to land himself in trouble with his antics. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after the first two books. But Jackie tells us the inspiring story of how she bought the books back from the dead.

The original Dougal did not have the surname Daley.  He was called Dougal Trump.  The author on the cover was D. Trump.  The title was I’m Dougal Trump – it’s NOT my Fault!  This was before a certain other D. Trump became quite so well known. 

She went to the London Book Fair and met Louise Jordan who runs the publishing company Wacky Bee. Jackie told Louise her story and Louise went away and read the original books. She then contacted Jackie to say she loved them and would like to publish all three titles.

Find out more in Writers Forum

Monday, March 12, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Creating Conflict

Conflict is a storyteller’s best friend. The stronger the problem, the stronger the story. 

The plot of any story can be set out as follows:

Beginning meet the main character and introduce the problem
Middle focus on the problem, which gets worse through the inciting incident – introduce a focus of resistance such as suspense / surprise / tension
End resolve the problem, whichever way, then get out as quickly as possible.

Aristotle said the most important thing in any story is the sequence of events. Each event has a cause and effect, and each is connected in the plot. There are six stages of plot development:
·                 The opening
·                 The arrival of conflict
·                 The early achievement
·                 The twist and the change
·                 The resolution
·                 The final outcome

A story for children should open with conflict. 

Don't be nice to your character! Create obstacles to their goal. The story is more exciting that way, the character learns more, and the reward is more valuable since the character worked so hard for it.

Conflicting Characters
The most popular, since conflicts between people are the most interesting to readers.  

Cinderella and her wicked stepmother

Inner Conflict 
Conflict between good and evil or strengths and weaknesses in a character. This is deep stuff and not usually the main conflict. The Grinch is evil and hates Christmas, but he is not evil at heart, he is like that because someone hurt him. The Grinch feels inner conflict over the good and evil inside of him.

The Grinch
Fight Against Nature 
Usually involves natural disasters or survival skills. This conflict is exciting, but often difficult to write about at length. 

You can combine different types of conflict. Maybe your characters struggle to survive and fight among themselves, such as in Lord of the Flies.

Add more conflicts and obstacles if your story seems slow or not ‘big’ enough.

Before you write, know how the problem will be solved. Don't write yourself into a hole! Most importantly your main character must solve the problem. Don't have someone (or something) enter at the last minute and save the day.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Point of View

Your story should be told through the eyes of a single character, usually the main character. This is called ‘point of view’ and can be achieved in third or first person. 

Sudden shifts in the story’s point of view can jolt and disorient the reader. To keep it consistent, narrate only what your chosen character would know and nothing they wouldn’t. For example, other people’s thoughts, or something out of sight. If you do need to switch to a different point of view, set up a separate section or chapter for it.

You should keep the voice of the narrator's voice well out of the picture, unless you are writing fairy tales and folktales.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Building Character

First, build the protagonist (your main character)

The important traits of your protagonist should be:
  • They have a problem or need.
  • They have the ability to solve the problem, whether or not they know it (there's usually more suspense if he doesn't)
  • They have a character flaw to overcome to solve the problem, or win the reward.

Your main character should be someone the reader can identify and/or sympathise with. They should be near the top age of your intended readers. One exception  to this is in folktales. You should identify your characters with one or more telling details—a physical trait, a mannerism, a favourite phrase but a complete description is not really required.

Then, think about your secondary characters, which includes the main character's friends and enemies.

Protagonist: Main character with flaws
Antagonist: Block the main character from reaching goals. (The Green Goblin in Spider-Man)
Allies: Assist the main character in reaching goals. (Robin in Batman)
Mentors: Wise characters that help the main character. (Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars)
Jokers: Lighten things up! Often the main character's best friend is a joker. (Donkey in Shrek)

You can combine different types of characters to make them stronger.

A funny villain Dr. Evil in Austin Powers:

Dr. Evil from Austin Powers
A mentor who is also a joker:

Hagrid from Harry Potter
A villain that becomes an ally and helps the main character solve the real problem: 

Floop from Spy Kids
Strong secondary characters are important in all stories for all age ranges so it is worth spending time on creating them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Writing Non-Fiction

There is a large market for non-fiction reference books based on topics taught in school.

With educational non-fiction publishers prefer to come up with their own ideas in-house or work through book packagers. I work a lot to commission. My book, Explaining Diabetes, which was published by Franklin Watts but, was commissioned by the book packager Bender, Richardson and White. It was one book in a series of books about illnesses and conditions.

When approaching publishers with unsolicited non-fiction it is better not to have a finished book. A one-page outline giving a brief breakdown of the chapters, target audience and potential market is generally what is required. 

I suggest you market research the publishers you want to submit to as well. Check they publish books for the age range you want to write. There are different publishers for primary than secondary aged children. You can find out which publishers print what by checking out The Writers and Artists Yearbook.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Anita's Writing Tips - Keep Going

It's not easy to get published but perseverance does pay off.
"Writing is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Authors are still getting deal and books are still selling. During difficult times people turn to escapism through books and movies. So the market is out there.

I  know it's difficult to keep going when your aim is to write the next bestseller. Remember only a tiny majority of writers find fame and fortune but most make a slow steady income by doing what they love.

I'm not telling you to set your sights lower what I am saying is don't let your nagging doubts stop you. All writers feel like this at some point in their careers. Don't let other distractions get in the way of you reaching your goals. Only you can write your story so keep going.