Nancy's Books

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Chapter Book Revision, cont'd.

At this point in my chapter book revision, I’m focusing on the first three chapters, since that’s what many agents/editors request. If they like the beginning, they may ask to see the entire manuscript. The first sentence, followed by the first paragraph, followed by the first chapter are the parts of a manuscript that have the greatest initial impact (first chapter = initial impact). If readers aren’t hooked in the first chapter, they often read no further. A great first chapter warrents further reading. A not-so-great one earns a rejection. The writing must stand out to the point it beats the competition, which is not an easy task to achieve, but IS achievable.

A lot happens in the first chapter. Here are revision checkpoints I’m homing in on:

 Introduce the hook. A hook is writing that snares  readers' interest and keeps them reading.
Introduce the characters. Begin with the main protagonist. My initial plan involved writing about an unreliable narrator, one who the reader could not depend on to tell the story in an unbiased way. The little boy didn’t get along with his neighbor so from his perspective, everything about the neighbor was negative. A few revisions later I still kept this aspect of the character’s personality. Then, after setting the story aside for months, I’ve decided to make the character narrating the story more reliable and the neighbor can come to life showing her positive and negative traits as the story unfolds. Setting this story aside to work on other projects allows me to be more objective in critiquing because I’m coming back to it with a fresh outlook, a policy I recommend for all writers.

I’ve revised the first three chapters until my fingers tingled, but Chapter 1 is missing the mark, still. What’s a writer to do? Revise, revise, revise. At this point I’ve rewritten the opening about thirty times. Yes, 30! There may be a 31. I’ll run it by my critique partner and find out.

In my next blog, I’ll provide more checkpoints for revision.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Hunger Mountain is a print journal of the arts. We publish fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, visual art, young adult and children’s writing, and literary miscellany. Our print issue comes out annually in the spring. Hunger Mountain hosts four annual writing contests, which are open to all writers: the Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, and the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize.  We also offer a paid Hunger Mountain Fellowship.

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, May 13, 2018

CHAPTER BOOKS Characteristics

As young readers (ages 6-9 or 10) transition from short sentences to paragraphs, chapter books become the reading selection of choice. These books are often written as a series, and story is not as dependent upon the illustrations as are those in picture books and beginning readers. Prose carries the story in chapter books along with numerous illustrations. These books bridge the gap between beginning readers and middle grade novels.

Chapter books are written in a wide variety of interests: humor, adventure, supernatural, mystery, and more. Although they differ, they share these similarities:
  • Fast paced—the story/plot moves quickly.
  • Fun to read with loveable/enjoyable characters
  • Plots are clear and simple.
  • A protagonist who is good or means well even if the behavior is questionable. Make it clear to the reader why the character is misbehaving. Characters can be mischievous and make mistakes.
  • Lots of dialog. The voice of the characters should sound like a child whose age is approximately that of the reader (ages 6-9).
  • In comparison to middle grade novels, chapter books have shorter sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Omit unnecessary words, but sometimes long words can be used if the meaning is made clear by the text or the meaning is evident by sounding out the words. Chapter lengths range from 4,000 to 15,000 words.
  • Interesting, lively language.
  • Humor rules…and sells. Kids love to laugh. Editors love books that make kids laugh.
  • The child protagonist outwits the bad guys.
  • Events can be dramatic. The characters can, and should, experience heightened emotions, including but not limited to joy, embarrassment, or fear (the fear shouldn’t be nightmarish).
  • Most stories are told through the viewpoint of a single character.

Read lots of chapter books to gain an understanding of what publishers are looking for in these tales.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Golden Fleece Press. Submissions for Wee Tales and Refractions must be age appropriate for the journal (7 to 12 for Wee Tales, 13 and up for Refractions). Refractions short submissions should be between 1000 and 5000 words, Wee Tales submissions should be between 600 and 2000 words.

Submit to  Subject line: QUERY–Title–Last Name
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 My Website is