Tip ~ INKAS ~ #2

Moving on to the next group of INKAS, we’re going to look at Children’s Story and Children’s Story with Illustrations.

 

ChildStryNu

 

It was kind of fun, if a little strange, discussing writing children’s stories with kids in grades 3 through 5. Generally, they took it under pretty solemn consideration. Even young writers thought it was serious business! Especially when it came to the idea listed under No. 6, that a children’s story can teach a lesson.

But, starting from the top, because I was working with lower grade school children, I had to keep them considering stories for children younger than they are. Commercially, children’s book are classified in age groups like these:

  • Board books & concept books ……. birth to 4     word count: 0 – 100 words
  • Picture books ….. 3 to 8     word count: currently 500 – 600 words or even less
  • Picture story books ….. 5 to 8 (a hard sell)     word count: 500 – 1000 words, but crossing over 750 is an automatic ‘no’ for a lot of publishers
  • Chapter books ….. 6 to 7 & 8 to 10     word count: 5000 – 20,000 for 6/7 years and older & 20,000 – 35,000 for 8/10 years old
  • Middle grade novels ….. 8 to 12     word count: 30,000 – 45,000 for contemporary stories; science fiction/fantasy can run somewhat longer
  • Tween novels ….. 10 to 14     word count: 40,000 – 55,000 for contemporary; science fiction/fantasy, somewhat longer
  • Older YA novels ….. 15 to 18 &up     word count: 40,000+   (shorter would be a novella)

Not quite a children’s category, but something to know about, is the New Adult category. This is writing for young people age 17 to mid-20s, and has the same word count parameters as the Older YA novels. 

You should also be aware that many adults enjoy reading children’s category fiction, from about Middle grade novels on up.


Source and reference: I refer you to this blog post at Write for Kids for some details on writing for each of these categories, especially if you are new to the children’s writing business.

Children’s stories should always use vocabulary that children are familiar with, but there is nothing wrong with introducing new words. The trick is to provide enough story context – including the use of illustrations – to help the child figure out the the meaning.

Children’s stories have all the traits of stories in general – action, description, dialogue; being about something a child is interested in; and having a proper beginning, middle, and end while being long enough to tell the tale and still fall within word count guidelines.  One of the reasons writing for children is not as easy as some think!

One thing about Children’s stories is that they often teach a lesson, frequently using humor. But be wary. The lesson should be in the takeaway, not in a preaching moment in the story. The solution to the problem should be found by the protagonist, so that the reader can identify with the success. After all, everybody wants to be a hero.

All of these things apply for Children’s Story with Illustrations as well, with just a few additions, as this INKA shows.

 

ChildStryIllusNu

 

#5 is especially important, as a lot of children’s writers have a desire to illustrate their own story. You don’t always have that opportunity, because most publishers will want to sign a known professional whose work they feel they can count on to suit your book. You might have the opportunity to express what types of illustrations you had in mind as you wrote. If you are a professional artist yourself, or a very good undiscovered one, you may be able to convince a publisher to give you a look. Because the two things work together, sometimes the illustrations are used to convey things the actual writing does not.

Every writer has stories to tell – why else would they write? The question here is, do you have a story to tell to children, maybe a story that will help them become the best sort of person they can be? Or just a story to introduce them to life on this (or another) planet?

These INKAS are only an introduction to writing for children, but maybe that introduction is all you need to start.

 

 

 

 

 

Tip ~ INKAS ~ #1.1

I’d like to expand upon my first INKAS post.

There are, roughly, twenty INKAS our group created. Over time, I will try to cover all of them, sharing with you what our students discovered.

Since I was working with writers in grades 3 through 8, the explanations I’ll use have been directed at kids. But, the advice still applies, and I count on you to ‘upgrade’ the tip to your own level.

 

ShortStryNu

 

Our INKAS were divided into groups. The first group consisted of stories we classified as ‘Words that Tell’; words that tell a story. This group of INKAS includes Short Story, Children’s Story, and Children’s Story with Illustrations. (I’ll elaborate on the Children’s Story categories in the future.)

We all pretty much know what a short story looks like, but the INKA will help you remember what a reader expects to find in one.

Remember the best story you ever read? Think about why you liked it. It probably had dialogue, or conversation. It’s much more interesting to ‘hear’ the characters speaking for themselves than to read about that they said. Many exciting stories start out with dialogue. What would you write for a story that started out with this line?

“Hey! Stop!”

A story will usually have action, and description, too, to let the reader know what people and places look like.

It may sound funny, but a writer needs to make sure their story has a strong beginning, a sturdy middle, and a definite ending. Some new writers lose steam after starting out, and they simply stop writing.  A good story has something definite to say, and it stops only when it has said it.

What else makes a good story? What helps it capture your imagination and keeps you reading? One answer: when you can care about the characters. And a reader only will care about the characters if the writer cares about them first.

Whatever happens in your story, whether it is full of action or full of internal thoughts and reflection, the characters should grow and change; something should happen in their lives that is important to them.

Finally, whenever you write, write what is  in your heart. Write about something that you care about. Write with passion ! You will enjoy the writing more. You will stay engaged with the story, and you will keep your reader engaged, too.

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Tip ~ INKAS~ #1

INKAS ?   What are INKAS?

INKAS are a tool I created while working with a school writing club. We discussed what makes up a good story (or poem, or essay, etc), and then jotted down our thoughts.

We came up with INKAS for the 20 categories of writing we studied. Each INKA lists the characteristics of the type of writing named on the box.  The image illustrates the definition of INKAS.

 

inkasImage

 

A recent discussion at our writing group showed me that some new writers don’t know (and some experienced writers lose sight of) the basic characteristics of the kinds of writing we do. So I have resurrected INKAS to help with that understanding. We begin with Short Story.

Short Story   –  typical length: 1500 words

  1. Has a complete beginning, middle, and end; is long enough to tell the whole story

May be aimed at any age

  1. May be based on truth, but is usually made up

May have dialogue in it (use proper quotations marks and paragraphing)

  1. Uses description and active words (verbs); remember the 5 senses

 

and a short story

… tells the reader about something

…has events that are important to the main character and that make the reader care.

…is written economically; every word counts