Secondary Characters, Sequels, and Fans

An interesting post by Cindy Huff at Writer’s Patchwork Blog. Enjoy!

Crafting Stories for Children

The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children

By Nancy Lamb         Published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2001


CraftingstoriesThe Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children has been one of the most influential books ON MY SHELF. My copy is thoroughly highlighted, and dotted with pink sticky notes from introduction to Reading List. I have poured over some portions of it dozens of times, I am sure.

I’ll quote a line or two from the beginning of the book “Praise for The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children.

“It’s all here—everything you need to know about writing for children, presented with insight and humor.”  (Janet Zarem)

Lamb’s book covers everything from “Discovering Your Story” to a clear and specific overview of children’s books’ genre and formats.

It covers “Structural Design,” Beginnings, the importance of crises, and classic story structures.

The chapters on scenes, plots, characters, point of view and dialogue are thorough.

However, the section of The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children on “Interior Designs” has been the most influential on me. It consists of chapters that give clear explanations and useful examples related to some foundational stones for story telling:

  •       “Promise, Premise, Theme and Moral”
  •       “The Promise Continued: Voice and Tone”
  •       “Narrative Authority: Setting and Senses”
  •       “The Write Way” which covers Lamb’s Twenty-Six Steps to Good Writing and her Top Ten Rules of Verbal Combat (pet peeves of editors)

I’m a foundation digger. When I’m learning a new skill or taking on a new job or project I want to know the underpinnings of the task, job or organization. I like to know I’m on a solid foundation before I start throwing up walls, windows and doors.

For me the chapter “Promise, Premise, Theme and Moral” gave me a solid foundation on which to build my stories. When I write the beginning of my story I make some promises to my readers. I MUST keep those promises or I’m going to cheat my readers and lose a lot of them along the way.

I promise that it’s going to be a story about a certain character who needs or wants a certain thing, and has to battle her way to getting or doing it. That’s my premise; it provides the plot and structure for my story.

I also promise that it’s going to be a story about love or family or death or war, etc. That’s the theme of my story; it flows through my scenes and sequels, it carries my characters through events, and it dictates what sort of ending my tale will have.

I keep or break my promise by creating a mood, or even the genre or sub-genre of my story, through the voice I use to write it. My voice is established by the choices I make in words, syntax, structure, pace, punctuation and white space. My unique blend of style, characters and descriptions of people and settings comprise my voice. Blended together they express my voice in each manuscript.

And lastly I convey my promise to my readers by the tone or atmosphere I create. A funny story, a sad story, a serious story, a thrilling story, a moving story all come to life against the backdrop I create. Tone and voice can work hand-in-hand to enhance my story. Or, they can oppose each other creating strong contrast. Either way they unroll the canvas on which my story exists.

Learning that hasn’t been easy. But The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children introduced me to this foundational truth, and is always there to rescue me when I need to shore up a story that screams at me that it’s about to fall apart.

I LOVE this book!














Almost-Saturday in Verse

It’s halfway between Saturdays… so this is either really late or really early. Either way, I hope this poem blesses you, encourages you and challenges you. So here it is… OUTSIDE …

Source: Almost-Saturday in Verse

Non-Fiction of Olympic Proportions (plus a prize!)

Great tidbits! Thanks.

On My Shelf

In my home office I have a book case. Or two. Or three. Every shelf is crammed full of books. Paperbacks. Hardbacks. Picture books. YAs. Novels. And loads of nonfiction titles. It’s probably …

Source: On My Shelf

Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary


Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary

By Sue Young

Published by Scholastic Reference


My Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary is one of the most used reference books On My Shelf. Though I use online rhyming dictionaries at times I always fall back on this little book.


It is one of my favorites for several reasons.

  •       It is inexpensive.
  •       It is compact.
  •       The format is straightforward and easy to use. I prefer quickly flipping through      the lists over wading through the online rhyming dictionaries I have used.
  •       It makes finding both end rhymes and internal rhymes easier for me.
  •       Because it was published for elementary and middle school children the words listed are on an elementary and middle grade level. That makes them perfect for use in my children’s manuscripts.
  •       It has a user-friendly index.

Unfortunately the book is no longer available through Scholastic. However, I found it and several other rhyming dictionaries at Amazon.

Click HERE for that selection.

Whether you write poetry, board books, picture books or whatever…

If you want your poetry or prose to “sing” you’ll get a lot of use out of your own Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary.

Song of Night

Song of Night – It’s Time to Go to Bed

Song of Night

By Katherine Riley Nakamura           Illustrated by Linnea Riley

Published by The Blue Sky Press in 2002


Song of Night – It’s Time to Go to Bed is a wonderful example of a “quiet” picture book.

The 160 words of rhyming verse take your listener by the hand to visit baby animals preparing for bedtime. The illustrations are soft and beautiful. The faces are expressive indicators of the mood each baby animal is portraying. Each double-page spread includes cute and funny elements, too.

It’s a quiet walk to sleepy time for a little listener The story ends with the best sentiment ever to take to dreamland – “I love you so!”

I read this book to each of our four young grandchildren anytime they spent the night with us – which has been often in the past ten years. They enjoyed the snuggle-time and the sweet illustrations.

When the grandkids were little it was a great “quiet” segue to our own night-night hugs, kisses and prayers. I look forward to reading it to my great-grandchildren someday.

Picture Writing

Picture Writing – A new approach to writing for kids and teens

By Anastasia Suen

Published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2003

Picture Writing

About ten years ago I purchased my copy of Picture Writing – A new approach to writing for kids and teens. I assumed it would be primarily about picture books. But it is so much more!

Picture Writing is actually a self-paced course on writing in all three children’s genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry)  for all six formats (board books, picture books, beginning readers, early chapter books, middle grade books, young adult books.)

Anastasia Suen is the author of 250 children’s books. She is also a writing instructor and developmental editor for children’s authors.

I must confess that I never finished the course. I was just too new and uninformed at that time to digest the mounds of information and practice the skills. I did read and re-read the first few sections. As I scan through the material now (ten years later) I see that I highlighted some great insights from Suen.

I should have kept on reading ten years ago! 

Suen also uses memorable metaphors for the writing process. In other words, she uses “picture teaching” throughout the course.

I give Suen and Picture Writing five highlighters. MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1

The book is written in six parts plus very useful appendixes and an index.

She offers two plans and time tables for using the book as a writing course.

Part I explains “What Is Picture Writing?” It’s acknowledging that writing is a creative process. It’s allowing stillness and thoughtfulness to be a major part of the writing process. It’s allowing both sides of my brain to do their work in the creative process.

Part II “Plot” teaches about the process of plotting in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Part III “Character” follows that same design for the process of creating characters.

Part IV “Setting” does the same for the process of developing settings.

Part V “Putting It All Together” teaches us how to shape our fiction manuscripts, then nonfiction manuscripts, and then our poetry manuscripts.

Part VI “Look Again” details what happens after we submit our manuscripts with editors, marketing, revisions and more.

About five years ago I blogged about this book. Suen contacted me and said she was working on a revision. As of this date I haven’t seen one, but I hope it is forthcoming.

I’ll definitely buy it and try again.



Josie Jo’s Got to Know

Josie Jo’s Got to Know

Written by Dee Dee Parker. Illustrated by Jenny Allen.

Published by Pinfeather Press in 2005.


My sweet and gentle friend, Dee Dee Parker, wrote and published Josie Jo’s Got to Know through much heartache. Dee Dee has triumphed over many difficulties in this life. One of them was walking her daughter Brooke through the fires of cancer and into the arms of Jesus.

To honor Brooke’s curiosity and determination Dee Dee took on the task of turning her daughter’s dream of writing a picture book into reality after Brooke’s death. The result is a delightful peek at a very curious little girl.

I’m guessing the rhymed verse and the cute illustrations in Josie Jo’s Got to Know remind Dee Dee of Brooke’s childhood. The questions about raindrops and sunshine, clown noses and broccoli are gentle reminders for me to stop and thank God for my own children’s endless questions that challenged me and often made me giggle.

Sweet memories.

However, Josie Jo’s Got to Know is also a cute read for me and my grandchildren to share some lap time, and to open the door for them to bombard me with their own innocent questions.

Josie Jo’s Got to Know is definitely a sharable book to encourage parents, grandparents and their endlessly curious kids.

Thanks, Dee Dee, for inspiring me as a writer AND as a child of God with my own set of difficulties. You’re one of the most godly women I know, and a bright star on my journey toward publication.


You can buy a copy at Amazon.


The First Five Pages

The First Five Pages-A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

By Noah Lukeman

Published by Simon & Schuster in 2000  – A newer version was published in 2005.


First Five Pages AmazonNoah Lukeman is a literary agent and much sought after speaker on professional writing and editing.

The first few years I was learning to write for publication I kept hearing his name and stern advice at every conference or workshop to get, read, ingest and digest The First Five Pages and to sleep with it under my pillow.

I finally bought it and read it. Now I, too, am an advocate for this book.

I want to let the author describe The First Five Pages in his own words-quoted from the book’s Introduction.

“…this book’s perspective is truly that of the agent or editor.” (p.13)

“I was able to set forth definite criteria, an agenda for rejecting manuscripts. This is the core of The First Five Pages: my criteria revealed to you.” (p. 12)

“…this book differs from most books on writing in that it is not geared exclusively for the fiction or nonfiction writer, for the journalist or poet…the principles are deliberately laid out in as broad a spectrum as possible, in order to be applied to virtually any form of writing.” (p. 17)

The First Five Pages is divided into three parts.

PART I: PRELIMINARY PROBLEMS offered me new perspective on some basics that separate great writing from good writing. The five chapters are titled: Presentation (appearance, mechanics) Adjectives and Adverbs, Sound (yep – how does my writing sound when read aloud), Comparisons (metaphors and similes) and Style (what gives my writing dimension and a certain “feel.)”

PART II: DIALOGUE contains chapters on five ailments of dialogue any of which can render my manuscript ineffective and, thus, unpublishable. They include: Between the Lines (appearance on the page and what it tells the editor or agent immediately); Commonplace (mundane, every day, insignificant dialogue); Informative (dialogue used to convey information that should be shown); Melodramatic (dialogue); Hard to Follow (dialogue that is unclear or confusing for a variety of reasons.)

PART III: THE BIGGER PICTURE covers nine aspects of writing that absolutely determine whether or not my manuscript makes it out of the slush pile and into the “possibility” pile.

The chapter titles are words you’ve heard and read before, but Lukeman’s treatment of each adds clarity to confused writers like me. The titles are: Showing Versus Telling; Viewpoint and Narration; Characterization; Hooks; Subtlery; Tone; Focus; Setting; Pacing and Progression.

They are self-explanatory, I think.

Oh! The First Five Pages includes a detailed Index. I love it!

MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 I know I keep giving these books on the craft of writing 5 out of 5 highlighters. But they deserve it in my opinion. So, here we go again with 5 out of 5 for The First Five Pages.

One last thing – on Lukeman’s website you can read a lengthy excerpt from The First Five Pages and from each of his other books on craft. Sort of a free test-drive!


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