Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Characters Talk




When developing characters, my goal is to develop a distinct voice for each. I consider voice, cadence, slang, dialect, and word pronunciation. For example, in a chapter book I’m still tinkering with, one of the characters has a lisp due to missing front teeth, so some of her words become slurred. “Great” becomes “gweat.”

The tone of voice is a consideration. Tone can be serious, funny, formal, sarcastic, cheerful, or any other attitude. In my picture book, The Munched-Up Flower Garden, Liz is excitable and upset. Her attitude is expressed through dialog and actions.

Cadence is the rhythm of the text. Does your character speak in long or short sentences? Another character I’m currently developing uses more sophisticated words than his friends. These elements give characters uniqueness.

Think of each character as a real person and remain consistent throughout the story with his/her particular speech patterns. Word choice in speech reflects the time in history. If characters are contemporary, they use language that reflects today, but if they lived in the 1920s, their word choice should sound differently than that of modern-day kids.

Realistic dialog makes characters seem real and adds appeal to their personalities. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

The Amazing Kids! Magazine is an award-winning online publication created by kids and teens like you! We are proud of the amazing creative work kids can do, and love showcasing it here on our website! Take a look and get inspired to write your own stories or articles!

Submissions guidelines at http://mag.amazing-kids.org/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Youth Imagination is interested in creative fiction stories by teens as well as by adult authors. Make the stories awesome, inspiring and engaging. Our goal is to publish the best writing for and by teens. We particularly love stories exploring their issues, such as bullying, drugs, romance, school, parental issues, teacher issues, etc., as well as about the grit and character of teens and young adults.

Submissions guidelines at https://youthimagination.org/index.php/yi-submissions

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Inside Story

As writers, we need to think of ourselves as the characters we’re writing about. If the main character is a raccoon, imagine thinking like the raccoon in your story. How would a raccoon express itself if it spoke? How would it react in the events/problems/struggles in which it’s confronted?

As you develop dialog and actions, imagine what the raccoon is thinking and feeling. That’s the heart of the story. Internal thinking and feeling—what’s going on inside the character’s mind—can be the opposite of the character's dialog and actions. Internal dialog allows the reader to better understand the character’s motivations, which adds to character development.

A character may agree with another character by answering, “Sure!” Following this with the thought, Never in this lifetime, triggers the true feelings of the character. The feelings and internal dialog reveal truths that allow readers greater insight into the character.

Exposing the character’s true sentiments can also be used as a method to lighten the story with a dash of humor or to advance the plot.

Let your readers listen in and raise the emotional level of a scene.

 Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

The Telling Room. Empowers youth (young writers ages 6-18) through writing.

Submissions guidelines at https://www.tellingroom.org/submit

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Smarty Pants Magazine for Kids. We are taking submissions for children’s short stories (up to 800 words).

Submissions guidelines at https://smartypantsmagazineforkids.com/submission-guidelines/


Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, November 10, 2019

TK “To Come”





Sometimes when ideas refuse to flow, when the plotting refuses to plot, and the story refuses to gel, consider writing the bones of the story. Write the draft quickly. The first draft won’t be pretty, but it never is, anyway. Don’t know the name you want to attach to your character? Simply write TK, which means “to come.” The point is to keep writing, even when you don’t know that much about your story.

This strategy works well for Dumpsters, writers who write quickly. The idea is to hammer the gist of the story into a draft. Later, review the draft and fill in the TK spots, followed by revision, revision, revision.

This also works for Plodders, such as I. Even though I have a general idea of the map of the story and how it will end, I don’t have the rhythm or voice nailed down. Sometimes, I don’t even have the particular actions of the antagonist in mind. I have a choice, write the parts I know and TK the parts I don’t. My other recourse is to delay writing.

Both strategies work. Some people prefer to wait and think more about the story. I do that a lot, but I find that if I’m actually writing words, more ideas evolve and that gives me fodder to work with.

The most important takeaway from this blog is to find a way to stay involved in a story. If we delay writing because of some parts that we haven’t worked out, the story may never get written.

Have fun. Play with words. 
Call for Submissions for Young Writers: Word Smorgasbord is thrilled to publish the original work of young writers in elementary school, middle school, high school and college.
Submissions guidelines at https://wordsmorgasbord.wordpress.com/submissions/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Our dog titles are so very popular, and you have so many great stories to share with us, that we do a new dog title every eighteen months or so. Here is another chance for you to share a story or two about the member of your family who just happens to walk on four feet!

We are looking for first-person true stories and poems up to 1200 words. Tell us about the magic of your dog or the magic of a dog you know. Stories can be serious or humorous, or both. We can’t wait to read all the heartwarming, inspirational, and magical stories you have about a dog and the magic that dog brings to your life or the life of your family!

Submissions guidelines at Submissions guidelines at Submissions guidelines at https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story 

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Building Tension and Suspense




In most fictional picture books, MG and YA novels, the character faces a problem or goal. The story builds as the character makes multiple attempts to solve the problem or reach the goal. Think about the part leading up to the moment of victory. Slow down the action in this part of the story, so you won’t reveal the outcome quickly. Slowing the action builds tension. Tension builds suspense. The suspense keeps the reader hanging on to know more, cheering on the protagonist, and holding on to finish the story.

So how do writers slow down the action? One way is to add details that delay the resolution. In Barreling Over Niagara Falls, I focused the action between the barrel ride and the crowd who watched the daredevil stunt. Refocusing the text between the main character’s action of dropping over the Falls into the pool of water and turning the page to reveal the people watching, prolonged the reader from knowing the final outcome.

Another way to slow action is to write longer sentences. Short sentences speed the action, and longer sentences slow it.

Think about ways to slow the action in order to build tension and hold the reader’s attention to the last page.


Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Hanging Loose Press. Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

Submissions guidelines at Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Our cat titles are so very popular, and you have so many great stories to share with us, that we do a new cat title every eighteen months or so. Here is another chance for you to share a story or two about the member of your family who just happens to walk on four feet!

We are looking for first-person true stories and poems up to 1200 words. Tell us about the magic of your cat or the magic of a cat you know. Stories can be serious or humorous, or both. We can’t wait to read all the heartwarming, inspirational, and magical stories you have about a cat and the magic that cat brings to your life or the life of your family!

Submissions guidelines at Submissions guidelines at https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Trends in Writing for Children and Young Adults



The adage of never writing to trends is one I strongly uphold, but I also like to keep my eye on the pulse of the publishing for children. In doing so I’ve found some of the movements in the marketplace.

Editors show interest in books (children - teen) that sell well in an international market. Setting may be in America, but the characters are universally relatable and stories evoke emotions.

Books with content suitable to be built into games and toys.

The demand for biographies of groundbreaking women has been overflowing and may be saturated. Yet, one told with a unique angle can be a hit.

MG humor and fantasy is strong, along with those offering powerful emotional punches. 

Illustrated MG is hot. So are graphic novels.

Standalone titles for MG.

Realistic contemporary MG and YA that tackles serious topics. 

Female protagonists in contemporary, fantasy, and literary titles for MG and YA.

Paranormal stories for teens have been down, but seem to on the rise again.

YA thrillers, mysteries, and horror are popular.

YA fantasy that can crossover into the adult markets.

Diverse books by Own Voices authors are sought after in every category and age group.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Skipping Stones. You can send your regular submissions of poems, stories, essays, art and photo essays anytime. We accept your submissions for upcoming issues as they come in.

Submissions guidelines at http://www.skippingstones.org/wp/youth/


Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Everyone loves holiday stories and our contributors write great ones. They are so good that we create a new edition for the holiday season every year. We are now collecting stories for our HOLIDAY 2020 book and we are looking for stories about the entire December holiday season, including Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year’s festivities too.

We want to hear about your holiday memories and traditions. The rituals of the holiday season give a rhythm to the years and create a foundation for our lives, as we gather with family, with our communities at church, at school, and even at the mall, to share the special spirit of the season, brightening those long winter days. Please share your special stories about the holiday season with us. Be sure that they are “Santa safe” so that we don’t spoil the magic for precocious readers!

Submissions guidelines at https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story



Comment or check out the blog at https://nancykellyallen.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 29, 2019

What to Show, Tell, and Omit, Part 2


            Every writer must decide what to show, tell, or omit in a manuscript.

Check out these tips:

When characters talk (dialog) they should not repeat what they already know, unless the action took place a few chapters prior and the repetition is used to remind the reader. The purpose of dialog is to enhance character development and push along the plot. If your dialog isn’t doing that, omit it.


Limit the use of “he said” and “she said” as dialog tags. Allow the character to show some action to let the reader know who is speaking. 

Dialog should be authentic. It should sound like the age, gender, and culture of the speaker. A young child sometimes mispronounces words. That can be worked into the dialog to make the character seem real. 
Example:

“Don’t go there,” Annie said.

Annie stopped and stared at Jim. “Don’t go there.”

Also limit the length of a character’s dialog. A character that fills in an entire page without interruption, may be (probably is) talking too much.

Use exposition (explaining) sparingly. Large chunks of information should be fed to the reader in small doses to keep the interest high and the action moving.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Blue Marble Review. Are you age 13 to 21? (Or do you have writing kids?) If so, then Blue Marble Review is worth considering since there are few paying markets for teen writers. They accept fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. Pay is $25 ($75 for cover art). All submissions should be unpublished.
Submissions guidelines at https://bluemarblereview.com/submit/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

The Writer magazine: “Calling all YA & kidlit authors: We’re currently accepting pitches for our annual “Writing for Young Readers” issue! We are interested in how-to stories, reported pieces, narrative essays, and profiles of writers and others in the field.

Submissions guidelines at https://www.writermag.com/the-magazine/submission-guidelines/

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

What to Show, Tell, and Omit, Part 1




In a recent writing workshop, a participant said she had difficulty knowing what to tell or show in a story and what to leave out. Writers, both experienced and novice, deal with the same problem.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up in the thirty years I’ve been calling myself a writer:

Begin a story as late in the plot as possible. Start with the situation, as it is happening, that changes the character’s life. Opening with an action scene is a surefire way to engage the reader. Maybe the action is ambiguous, in order to add suspense or mystery. Or introduce an interesting character that captures the attention of the audience and holds it in a tight grip.

I usually write the first draft without too much concern for voice, focusing on plot,  characterization, and conflict. Later, as I revise, I concentrate on voice. At this point, I change much of the telling parts to showing by adding sensory description and details. If I’ve included a block of backstory, I revise to feed it to the audience, bit by bit. Long chunks of backstory slow the action and often becomes boring to the reader, so tread lightly.

In my next blog, I’ll continue with more tips.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Amazing Kids E-zine. This educational non-profit publishes work of kids between the ages of 5-13 as well as teens up to the age of 17. To learn more visit their submission guidelines here. They publish a wider variety of work than most traditional journals and are interested in non-fiction, fiction, poems, videos, reviews, and more.

Submission guidelines at http://mag.amazing-kids.org/get-involved/write-for-us/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Chicken Soup for the Soul. “You Go, Girl!” This call is looking for true stories designed to help young women feel stronger, more capable, and more confident. Limit 1,200 words. Payment is $200 and ten copies of the anthology that contains your story. 
Deadline December 15, 2019.
Submissions guidelines at https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Comment or check out the blog at https://nancykellyallen.blogspot.com/