TIP ~ INKAS ~ #5

Moving on with INKAS… Something perhaps pertinent to our times,  NEWS FEATURE & NEWS EDITORIAL.

5 minutes


We  hear a lot today about “fake news”. While historically there have been plenty of news articles containing errors or even purposefully misdirecting information, the abundance of disinformation and accusations that accurately written objective  articles are the phony ones is a relatively recent phenomenon.

It was in 2014 that Craig Silverman coined the term “fake news” when studying and blogging about misinformation as it appears online. As his study dug deeper and deeper into the Internet, he discovered web sites that looked authentic and wrote articles in the style of news features, but their content was totally false. Many of these purported to be based in the US but in fact were the products of foreign actors with an interest in interfering in the lives of Americans by influencing our beliefs about the world. At worst, they led people to believe things that completely untrue; at the least, they confused us.

In addition to publishing incorrect information for us to read and accept as fact, these sites muddy the waters in a more insidious fashion. Once sites are exposed as “fake news” as Silverman dubbed it, their existence calls into question any/all news media and their sources. Without the savvy necessary to suss out what is fake and what is not, people tend to accept stories that align with their own beliefs and biases.

People who do not trust the government are ready to believe the worst about it; false stories about government wrongdoing simply serve to reinforce what they suspect and strengthen their resolve to hold that position.

Critical thinking skills allow us to tell fact from fiction, truth from lie. These skills–learned when we are of school age–are essential to living a responsible life and essential to protecting our democracy and our way of living.

So what can a writer do?

When I created INKAS for my Writing Club kids, the situation was much different. Occurrences of fake news were far fewer and far less likely to have effects the level of today’s turmoil.


The characteristics of News Features  are simple: they report on events or situations that are of current interest to the general population. Things that are happening that you want to read about.

News Features are factual and objective; there is no place for an opinion in a News Feature, at least not the opinion of the writer. Reporting must often include quotes from the people written about. However, that is part of the story, and the opinions should be clearly attributed to the people who hold them.

Finally, there is a structure used in writing News Features. You provide the most important information first, then support it with details and more facts. This style of structure is referred to as the inverted pyramid.

News Features are generally written by reporters. In contrast,News Editorials may be written by actual editors or sometimes other news writers or publishers. Pieces written by members of the reading public are published under the category Op Ed or Letters to the Editor. Some publications will print a guest editorial written by an expert or a person prominently in the news.


News Editorials are specifically written to express the writer’s opinion. In this case, the reader knows from the beginning that it is opinion, and not necessarily fact. However, well-written editorials are often supported by details and factual references. These pieces are commentary on current events and are usually written to try and persuade others to agree with the writer’s point of view.

News Editorials will often deal with politics, local events, global issues–such as climate change or how a disaster has been handled or how societies change. Their scope may be anything from global to local. Their intent may be heartfelt, or calculated.


Challenge yourself to read some news articles carefully. Do this with articles you expect will be features and ones you expect to be editorials.

Now for a News Feature, ask yourself:

  • Has the writer chosen the right information to put first?
  • Is their opening information clearly explained with supporting facts and details?
  • Do their itemized facts check out with other sources?
  • Is there an opinion hidden in the piece, maybe by how words are ordered or what words are used?

For a News Editorial, ask:

  • Was this article either presented or identified as a News Editorial?
  • Is there a clear explanation of the writer’s opinion?
  • Is it clear when the writer is offering opinion versus any facts they may use to support their ideas?
  • Do you feel the writer is trying to persuade you to join them in their beliefs?
  • If you are feeling persuaded, is it because of facts you can identify in the piece or is it an emotional response to the feelings and beliefs contained in the piece?

Congratulate yourself! You have just applied critical thinking to the news articles you read. I hope you found that enlightening. If you think anything you read in those articles was questionable, I hope you will try to check the facts with other sources and think about what you learn.

… and the next step is to try your own hand at this type of writing!

TIP ~ INKAS ~ #3

Finally returning to our INKAS.  Poetry is  the next form of writing I want to discuss.


Working with multiple age levels in poetry can be tricky, something I learned early on in the years I coached Writer’s Club. Levels of understanding vary as much as levels of ability. On the other hand, nothing is more refreshing than to hear the original thinking that goes on in a new poet, especially when they are young. And, there is a form of poetry for everyone.

Poetry expresses our innermost thoughts and feelings. Poems can be funny — think Dr. Seuss — or sad. A poem can tell a story, as in a ballad, or it can describe a single internal moment in a person’s soul. Poetry is recited for entertainment and for learning. It can brighten our memories with a description of a grand day at the beach or touch our hearts with tender lines of love. Poetry connects the mind with the heart and the soul.

You will find that there are all kinds of poetry. There are poems that rhyme every other line, and there are poems that rhyme no words at all. There are poems only two lines long – couplets, and there are poems over 70 lines long: ballads.

Rhyming patterns – referred to as schemes – are described by assigning rhyming words the same letter. So, a limerick, where the 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines rhyme and the 3rd and 4th lines rhyme would be described as having a rhyme scheme of ‘aabba’.

APoemSometimes new poets like the idea of writing poetry because it is short – but that is an illusion. It takes thought to put expression into a few words or phrases. A good poem can take as long to write as a long story. But that doesn’t mean you can’t write a poem quickly, especially if you are excited about it.

One thing that young poets don’t always seem to know is how to present a poem visually.

Poetry is usually not written in complete sentences but in phrases.  It is not shaped like a paragraph but takes shape on a screen or paper in such a way that the reader knows went to stop and start and what the rhythm of the poem is. The look of the poem adds to the pleasure and meaning of the poem.

I find it easier to write a poem completely, then look it over and adjust the punctuation, the capitalization, and the lines so that it reads the way I want it to.

I said earlier that there is a form of poetry for everyone. Below is a  not all-encompassing of some of the different forms of poetry. Some you will recognize; some you won’t. You can read more about poetry forms and how to write it, including such details as meter and stanza, imagery and onomatopoeia, at Poetry 101: Learn about Poetry (where you can also find a link to details on US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’s MasterClass).  I’m not posting this info as a promotion, it’s just a fact that you will find the link there.


We write for many reasons, and we choose the form our writing takes based on those reasons. For expressing emotion, discerning truth, and unlocking secrets of the universe, there is nothing so useful as poetry. Happy writing!


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.




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.




#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.