Nancy's Books

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Writing a Chapter Book



I’m in the process of revising a chapter book manuscript. I wrote it about two years ago, revised it a few times, and then placed it aside to work on picture books. Now, it’s time to revisit the manuscript. Waiting a few months before revision is important so I can visualize the text with fresh eyes and a clearer editorial sense. Usually, I don’t wait this long, but I want to give this story the best chance possible for publication. Letting time pass without reading it will make it easier to recognize the weaknesses of the story and the mistakes.

Since I wrote the manuscript, I’ve read lots of chapter books. According to Stephen King, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading works of numerous authors teaches writers a variety of ways to approach a subject, plot, or character. You’ll gain an understanding of the nuances of language and recognize how the structure of a story is built. As a writer, I try to read like an editor, and that comes with practice. I read, at least, ten children’s book a week. My mantra: Read more. Write better.  

I’ve also continued to read books on the writing process. As authors, we have to be cognizant of the subtleties of the language: voice, word choice, narrative and dialog humor. These can be learned. A ton of books are available on all types of writing. Every week, I read several articles about the writing process.  

The story is there. I need to smooth the rough edges and there are plenty of them. 

In my next blog, I’ll discuss the basic characteristics of a chapter book.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
I will resume the Call for Submissions for Young Writers in September.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: Id: 7,424, Version Set: 614, Version Number: 1
A Chicken Soup for the Soul story is an inspirational, true story about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit. It is a simple piece that touches our readers and helps them discover basic principles they can use in their own lives. These stories are personal and often filled with emotion and drama. They are filled with vivid images created by using the five senses. This call is for a story about grandparents.
Submission guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Think Visually for a Picture Book

I wrote a picture book manuscript. Revised until my eyes threatened to cross. Pitched it to my critique partner for feedback. Revised again. Back to my critique partner, and revised again. 
Since most picture books have two components, pictures and text, the goal is to limit words to the bare essentials. The characters' clothes, house, shoes don’t need to be described, unless vital to the story, because the illustrations will provide those. For writers who are not illustrators, it can be difficult to think visually, eliminating the aspects that can be shown through illustrations.
Lack of description provides space for illustrators to carry the story beyond the text and to develop a variety of picture possibilities. Sometimes illustrations add a second story line. 
Focus the story on action and dialog. Dialog allows the emotion of the character to step off the page.
Introduce characters that reflect the interest of the audience/age group. 
Move characters forward in the plot and into different settings. 
Vary the emotional intensity of scenes.
With a maximum of 600 words or less, omitting description allows writers to delve deeper into the story in a short amount of space.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Amazing Kids! Online Magazine. Do you love writing, art, photography or videography, and are between the ages of 5 to 18? Would you like to be published in the Amazing Kids! Online Magazine? Submit your writing and art; it might just be published in an upcoming issue!
Send your name, age, and state/country when you send us your work. Please keep in mind we only accept kid-friendly, age-appropriate original creative works done by kids and teens. (The work must be appropriate for kids ages 12 and younger) and can be any of the following:
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
East of the Web is keen to provide exposure for writers by offering them a place where their work will be seen and read in a high quality, respected setting. The site receives about half a million unique visitors per month, so successful submissions are likely to be viewed by more readers than in almost any other short story publication. In addition, the site receives attention from agents, the press, film makers, schools, universities and other publishers.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at

Monday, April 2, 2018

Formatting a Picture Book

A writer, who is interested in picture books and asked about how to figure out pacing and how to divide the text onto pages, requested this blog.

    Picture books should written with page breaks in consideration. Most have 32 pages but with front and back matter only 27-28 pages are used for text, sometimes less. That leaves about 13-14 double-page spreads of illustrations and text.
    When writing take advantage of the page breaks. Possible ways to use them: 
    Surprise the reader when the page is turned.

    Vary the action so each double-page spread has a different scene and new action. One way I do this is to write the story; then divide it into 14 scenes. Of course, I have to revise, revise, revise to get pacing I need within the story segments. Some scenes may have too many words. My goal is to write 450 word or less. That number seems to be the “sweet spot” for most picture books.
    I also make a book dummy by folding 8 sheets of computer paper in half and stapling it. Front and back, the pages number 32. I print my completed manuscript, cut it with scissors and tape the text into the appropriate pages. This helps me know where the story does not work, where I need to rev up the surprises on page turns, or slow the action.
    I never submit a dummy or a manuscript with page breaks to a publisher unless it is specifically requested by the editor. Most publishers want standard format for submissions.

    Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Noisy Island seeks new and exciting work from high-school age students in the areas of fiction, poetry, and songs.  We want to be an online journal that people actually read, so send us the type of work that you like to read and the type of music that you like to hear.  

Submission guidelines at 

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Spider Magazine, published by Cricket Media, seeks stories, poems, articles for children on theme of Over the Rainbow. 
"We would like to see warm family stories, an entire story without gender pronouns, children with different gender expressions, and gentle realistic or metaphorical coming out stories." 
Deadline: April 15, 2018.

Submission guidelines at
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at