So, you dream of writing a children’s book. And not only do you believe you have a premise that will entertain, bring laughter and joy, or make an impact on developing minds, you have a passion for reaching kids. What better mission to embark on? I say go for it! But before you send off your manuscript to an acquisitions editor, be aware that the genre has its own set of nuances that make it distinct from higher reading levels.
Lori Z. Scott
Story Embers Article Writer
Elementary school teacher Lori Z. Scott usually writes fiction because, like an atom, she makes up everything. Her down time is filled with two quirky habits: chronic doodling and inventing lame jokes. Neither one impresses her principal (or friends/parents/casual strangers), but they do help inspire her writing. Somehow her odd musings led her to accidentally write the 10-book best-selling Meghan Rose series and purposely write more than 150 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions. In addition, Lori contributed to over a dozen books, mostly so she would have an excuse to give people for not folding her laundry. (Hey! Busy writer here!) As a speaker, she’s visited several conferences and elementary schools to share her writing journey. Some of Lori’s favorite things include ice cream, fuzzy socks, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars, books, and hugs from students. Guess which one is her favorite?
To me, drafting a manuscript is akin to creating an animal figurine out of a pile of clay. Section by section, you mold, carve, and polish your loosely formed impression into a muscular, spirited stallion. Over the past few years, I’ve had to revise three manuscripts, and during that process, I stumbled across four methods that increased my efficiency. The clay analogy is ideal for conveying each one.
Jesus didn’t shut His eyes to the suffering around Him. From hypocrisy to idolatry and worse, He confronted sin head-on with God’s love—sometimes in everyday conversation, but more often He couched His teachings in parables. Christian storytellers need to practice the same wisdom and extend the same grace. My newest release, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, provides one example of how to gently reach hurting readers. Although the novel features a lot of volleyball action (it’s sports-centric), a dash of romance (it’s YA), and humor (because I’m the author), it touches on a struggle many teens face.
Fiction is my wheelhouse, my first and last love, my comfort zone, the place where I shine. So, when I noticed Story Embers’ Instagram advertisement for an article writer, I scrolled past it. I couldn’t be the person they were looking for!
Historical fiction offers writers a huge advantage in the area of plot development: real situations dictate the parameters for the setting, the conflict and resolution, and the characters. You don’t face the pressure of inventing everything from scratch. The disadvantage, however, is equally far-reaching. You must ensure the accuracy of even the smallest details, including clothing, dialects, and customs. The task can seem overwhelming, but it’s manageable if you address one category at a time.
Every genre, from suspense to contemporary, requires a leap of faith from readers to be effective. They know that the yellow brick road running through Oz doesn’t exist. Yet they pick up Baum’s classic and become so enthralled that they forget they’re turning pages instead of street corners. Why would they allow themselves to hallucinate for hours?
I often see writers deprecating themselves on social media. Or hesitating to share their work. Imposter syndrome—the belief that you’re not good enough, qualified enough, or capable enough—spoils the victories of creatives across the globe. Do you suffer from it too?
Worldbuilding is a term that’s usually associated with sci-fi and fantasy. However, as an author of contemporary fiction, I’ve discovered that I can borrow principles from those genres to provide vivid backdrops for my scenes. Consistent, well-structured settings enable readers to viscerally experience the same sensations as the characters, so any strategies that add more layers of realism are a win.
As Joseph Campbell once said, “We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” The seeds of this article came from my own experience with chronic illness. Type 1 diabetes sometimes affects whether I can write, think, and speak coherently. But I’m fortunate. Insulin pumps and glucose monitoring machines allow me to function at the same physical and cognitive level as most healthy adults. My less productive days made me wonder, though: How do people who have far more debilitating conditions manage to write consistently?
Everyone has experienced love in one form or another, so including romance lends more believability and relatability to the characters. It can offer readers a reprieve from intense and dark scenes, as well as reinforce the theme through how two flawed human beings interact. Even if romance isn’t central to the plot, a past of unrequited love, heartache, or loss can deepen your protagonist by either positively or negatively impacting how she handles situations in the present.