Tag Archives: Chris Eboch

5 Myths about Writing for Children, with author Chris Eboch

Write for Children 6.69x9.61 CoverArticle by Chris Eboch. 

Remember the magic of bedtime stories? When you write for children, you have the most appreciative audience in the world. My new book You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers will take a beginner through the process – or help a more experienced writer fine-tune their work. But a lot of myths get shared or assumed when it comes to writing for children. Here are some of them, with adapted excerpts from the book to tell the truth.

Myth 1: Writing for children means writing picture books or teen novels.

Most Kid Lit authors start out wanting to write either picture books or novels, but the market doesn’t end there. Schools and libraries need nonfiction books for all ages. Easy Reader books are designed to help kids learn to read. They use simple vocabularies and short sentences, appropriate to a particular reading level.

Magazines publish articles, short stories, poems, crafts, and activities. You may find it easier to break in with a magazine piece than with a book manuscript, and some authors find regular work in magazines. If you are fairly new to modern children’s lit, study magazines for a good overview. The Cricket Magazine Group is a great place to start. They publish 14 magazines. Some are fiction and some are nonfiction, and they cover age ranges from birth to teen. You can read an online sample of each magazine on their website.

The truth is, writing for children covers a broad range of styles, topics, lengths, and age ranges.

Myth 2: Children’s books should be cute, sweet, and gentle.

Cute and sweet have their place, but not if it’s sappy or talking down to kids. And serious topics have their place as well.

Serious topics can be addressed in different ways, depending on the audience age. For example, the picture book Oskar and Klaus: The Search for Bigfoot was inspired by two real-life cats, one blind, the other a scarred former stray. Blind Klaus uses his other senses to find the way on their adventure. Laurie Thompson is the author of Emmanuel’s Dream, illustrated by Sean Qualls, an inspirational picture book biography. It tells the true story of a young man with only one leg who bicycled across Ghana. Books like these inspire young children as they see characters overcoming adversity to have adventures.

Books for older readers can tackle more challenging subjects. Silent to the Bone, by E. L. Konigsburg, is a mystery where the main character tries to find out the truth about his best friend, who is accused of abusing his baby sister and sent to a Juvenile Behavioral Center, where he can’t or won’t speak. Although the book deals with difficult issues, it’s shown through the best friend’s view as he investigates the story. This slight distance from the trauma, and the exciting mystery plot, make the novel accessible to the average middle grade reader (aged 9-12).

For teen readers, anything goes. Ellen Hopkins is well-known for her edgy, young adult novels, which tackle tough subjects such as drug addiction (Crank) and teen prostitution (Tricks), using a series of poems. While many adults are shocked at how dark some teen books are, Hopkins’s books are bestsellers. More importantly, she gets incredible fan mail from teens thanking her for helping them deal with issues in their own lives, or the lives of friends and relatives.

Myth 3: That cute thing my child or grandchild did would make a good story.

Ideas are everywhere, including in our own lives. However, even the most exciting events may lack important story qualities such as character growth and strong plots. (These topics are covered in You Can Write for Children.)

Still, personal and family experiences can provide the raw material to be molded into publishable stories and articles. Even if a specific episode doesn’t make for a good story, the emotions you experience can give power to fiction. Highlights for Children Senior Editor Joëlle Dujardin says, “Past events that stick with you are probably memorable in large part due to your emotional response to them. Try to capture some of this feeling in your story without tying yourself to the events as they actually happened.”

You can “borrow” stories from history and the news as well. I found an interesting tidbit in a history of Washington State. A teenage boy had met bank robbers in the woods, and for some reason he told nobody about them. Why? This question, and my imagined answers to it, became my YA survival suspense Bandits Peak.bandits_peak_500x800

Myth 4: Children’s stories are a chance to teach moral lessons.

Children read for fun, not a lecture, so you shouldn’t end your stories with obvious morals. The message should come out through the story itself, from the thoughts and actions of the main character, and what she learned from the experience. Instead, many beginning writers make their theme too obvious. Perhaps an adult character scolds the child, telling him how he should have behaved. Or the writer flatly states the moral at the end, like an Aesop’s fable. Don’t do that. Keep the message subtle.

All stories have themes, but when someone asks you about a mystery you read, you’re probably not going to say, “It was a story about how crime doesn’t pay.” Rather, you’ll talk about the exciting plot, the fascinating characters, perhaps even the unusual setting. A story’s message should be subtle, no matter the audience age.

Myth 5: You won’t make any money off of writing for children, or it’s a quick and easy way to make money.

This is a funny myth, because it swings in both directions. Neither is true. It is possible to make money writing for children. Some people even make a modest living from writing. However, if you want to get rich quick, then writing – especially writing for children – is not the way to do it. You might as well play the lottery or try to get on one of those talent TV shows.

But there are other reasons to write. Perhaps you want to record family stories or write down some of the bedtime stories you told your children or grandchildren. Maybe you enjoy the creative expression of developing stories. Maybe you have ideas, thoughts, messages, or entire worlds to share.

You get to choose your goals when it comes to writing. But if you want to reach young people, you need to write fresh, dynamic stories, whether you’re writing rhymed picture books, middle grade mysteries, edgy teen novels, nonfiction, or something else.

 

Learn all about writing for young people in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

  • How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.
  • How to find ideas.
  • How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
  • The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme – and some advanced elements.
  • How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
  • How to edit your work and get critiques.
  • Where to learn more on various subjects.

Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Photo by Sonya Sones

Photo by Sonya Sones

Chris Eboch writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages, with over 30 books for children. HerEyesOfPharaoh 280 x 448 novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; Bandits Peak, a survival story, and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children and Advanced Plotting. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Sign up for her workshop newsletter for classes and critique offers.

 

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Less blogging leads to more procrastinating

DSC01134You may have noticed – I’ve been blogging a lot less. Or maybe you didn’t notice – eek!

Poetry collection

My original intent was to work less on blogging and more on my poetry collection (for self-publication). Although I have been doing more poetry writing and editing, I’ve not been doing as much as I originally intended.

Procrastination

It’s a scourge. I do more procrastinating every day. Though I am making little dents in my “to do” list.

Blogging

So you may see some repeat blogs (I do want to refresh my content – search engines like that), but it might not be fresh.

Other fabulous blogs

With me not blogging as much, you have more time to check out these fabulous blogs –

Shawn MacKENZIE

Shawn MacKenzie – She’s my editor and is providing loads of great advice on the poetry collection. She SO gets me! Find her blog at MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest. Her Editor’s Corner is especially awesome.

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Elizabeth Cottrell

Elizabeth H. Cottrell – Find her blogging at Heartspoken, where you will discover wise advice for connecting with God, nature, others, and self. See her new tab for The Nature Store. Elizabeth is also helping me slog through CreateSpace.

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Linda Boulanger

Linda Boulanger – Wait til you see her book covers! I’m going to tap her when I get my poetry collection together, and I have the artwork done (yes, I’m doing it myself). She creates striking covers! She can design a cover for you – no matter the genre. Check out her site. 

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pamela wight

Pamela Wight – She writes over at Rough Wighting, a blog of daily living. She’s a relatively new gal pal, and I think we were separated at birth – we are so in sync! Pamela has two published novels and teaches creative writing.

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Susannah Friis

Susannah Friis – She and her hubs write articles and publish in Brisbane, Australia. Find Susannah at Personally Speaking. She blogs to “explore life in such a way as to enlighten and broaden my own thoughts and perspectives.” She is a breath of fresh air.

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Vaugh Roycroft

Vaughn Roycroft – He does not blog a lot, but when he does, they are significant. He is a gentleman and a scholar, and he writes darn good blogs. Find Vaughn at Seeking the Inner Ancient.

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Eboch credit Sonya Sones
Chris Eboch – Funny I didn’t “meet” her until after I moved away from NM – she’s in NM! Chris is a writer of MG, YA, and adult fiction. And she edits too. See her awesome blog at Write Like a Pro!

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Cyndi Briggs

Cyndi Briggs – She blogs over yonder at The Sophia Project. Her blogs address and tackle serious stuff in a fun, sometimes introspective, way. A joy of a blog.

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What fabulous blogs do you follow? Feel free to mention them here and provide links so we can all find them.

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Kids’ Week Kick-off – An Interview with Chris Eboch

Tell us about your latest historical fiction for children.

The Eyes of Pharaoh, 1177 BC: During the reign of Pharaoh Ramses the Third, Seshta, a 13-year-old dancer in the Temple of Hathor, dreams of becoming a famous entertainer. Horus, the brother of her heart, is content as a toymaker’s apprentice. Reya, at 16, has joined Egypt’s army with hopes of becoming a hero. Despite their different paths, nothing can break the bonds of their friendship.

When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt?

Then Reya disappears. Seshta and Horus set out to find him—and discover a darker plot than they ever imagined. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?

Set in ancient Egypt, the ideas in this book echo in the international politics of today, while the power of friendship will touch hearts both young and old. Suitable for ages 9 and up.

What kind of research did you do for The Eyes of Pharaoh?

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a kid. Plus, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, so I have some familiarity with the Middle East, and my family visited Egypt when I was in my 20s. I have at least a dozen books on ancient Egypt on my bookshelf, including several of the Time-Life books about how people lived, with lots of pictures. I also did a lot of library and museum research. The Eyes of Pharaoh is the kind of book I would have wanted to read when I was in fourth or fifth grade.

What is the most surprising thing you learned from your research?

One thing that intrigues me about history is how some of the lessons of the past resonate today. My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, is an adventure/drama set in 9th-century Mayan times. I explored some of the reasons the Mayan civilization collapsed, such as environmental degradation and too much money flowing to the government and away from the people.

For The Eyes of Pharaoh, I touched on issues such as illegal immigration and the dangers of a country thinking it’s the best and most powerful country in the world, and therefore untouchable. It’s disturbing how some of these themes still affect us. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever learn from the mistakes of the past, but I hope my books will get people thinking a little harder about these issues.

What is your writing process like?

Over the years I’ve gotten better at using outlines. Now I prefer to start with them, as it saves me a lot of time and frustration during the writing process. I figure a strong outline is the equivalent of two drafts. I use the analytical process I developed and included in my book Advanced Plotting to make sure the outline has all the elements needed for a strong novel, including good pacing.

That means I’ll spend several weeks brainstorming before I start writing, and I’ll also do most of my research in advance (although there are always little things to check along the way). Once I start writing, I generally write 1500 – 2500 words each day, about a chapter. Then I take a few weeks for editing, and maybe a break between books to catch up on other things.

How did you choose your genre?

Writing middle grade novels seemed like a natural fit to me. I read an enormous amount as a kid, and I still enjoy reading children’s books. It fits my style, partly natural and partly based on journalism training, with a focus on simple, clear language and plenty of action and dialogue to keep the pages turning. Plus, I love ancient history!

I’ve written contemporary novels for kids as well, such as my Haunted series about a brother and sister who travel with the ghost hunter TV show. That has a historical angle, too, because the ghosts are from different points in history. I’m now publishing the fourth Haunted book, The Ghost Miner’s Treasure. The first three books were published by Aladdin, but they dropped the series after my editor left. I’m excited that with self-publishing I can release The Ghost Miner’s Treasure on my own – and one early young reader said she thinks it’s the best yet!

A couple of years ago, I was starting to feel restless and wanted a change. I realized I had mostly been reading adult romantic suspense novels. I decided to try one, and now I’m publishing my third, under the name Kris Bock. I also write articles about writing, teach writing through a correspondence school, lead workshops, and offer private critique services. I expect my future will hold a combination of writing for children and for adults, plus teaching and editing.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Take classes and get professional feedback. Most people try to submit their work long before they’re writing at a professional level. You’ll save yourself frustration if you focus on learning to write better for a few years before you worry about the submission process.

Where can readers find your books?

Readers can learn about my books and order them on my Amazon page. They can also read excerpts of my children’s books at www.chriseboch.com, learn about my romantic suspense novels at www.krisbock.com, or get writing tips and excerpts from Advanced Plotting on my blog.

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Chris Eboch

Chris Eboch’s book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots and is available in print or e-book on Amazon or B&N. Learn about Chris’s children’s books at www.chriseboch.com or visit her Amazon page or B&N page.

Check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Chris also writes romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. Visit her website or see Kris Bock’s books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Connect with Chris on Facebook, Kris Bock Author Page, and on Twitter.

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Chris Eboch’s profile photo by Sonia Sones.

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