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 on: July 18, 2014, 11:55:42 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by jfields
A close point of view gives you the most information about the main character and the time for that character to unfold. It also avoids the distraction of other character thoughts and narrative voice, thus forcing your attention on the character who has the most at stake (we tend to connect with characters who have a lot a risk) and the character willing to act to affect change (we tend to connect with characters who we can admire -- at some level.) Since we see many sides of this person -- good and bad -- the character feels more real. And this sense of reality also helps us connect.

Every time you divide point of view, you lessen the time and focus you can give each character -- thus lessening their depth, and thus the reader identification. Which doesn't mean preventing it. You can have split characters and still make the reader care. I've read horror books, for instance, where a really skilled writer can make us care very much for a character in a few pages and then *BAM* the booger monster eats her (or whatever) so obviously we don't get that person's viewpoint again, but we still cared, usually because the viewpoint in the brief pages was very close and because the author tugged on our "connection strings" through some kind of universal draw.

 on: July 18, 2014, 11:26:42 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by jojocookie
How can POV best help the reader connect, invest with the character?

Anything I should be looking for besides the obvious?

 on: July 18, 2014, 07:28:38 AM 
Started by jfields - Last post by jfields
Children's Writers eNews
July 18, 2014
"The Write Words to Read"
The Institute of Children's Literature
Editor: Jan Fields --

 “Nobody is trying to keep you out of publishing. The whole job of agents and editors is to bring writers in—to find new voices, to nurture them and get them published."
-- Rachelle Gardner, agent
1. News
2. Online in Rx
3. At the Writer's Retreat
4. Market
5. Cool Site
6. Essay
7. Good News
1. You'll notice there's no link to Kristi Holl's blog. She's on hiatus while she works on another project.
2. In the Rx
Writing for Educational Publishers
Looking for a break-in market? Educational publishers might be the answer.
3. Are You On The Writer's Retreat?
Check out our July discussion topic: Point of View.

And for all visitors whether registered or not, you'll find plenty of helpful information: get help for student lessons. Learn to build solid plots. Share your ups and downs with fellow writers. It's all there.
4. Schoolwide Accepting Digital Submissions
"Schoolwide is currectnly accepting unsolicited submissions of books and short texts."
Manuscripts should be sent using the upload manager.
5. Blog Stuffed with Trends
Kathy Temean did a presentation on trends for the NJSCBWI -- for those of us who missed it, she's sharing on her blog. Fasctinating stuff.
6. You Never Have to Dumb Down

I read a lot of writing boards and writing email lists. These places have given me unexpected networking opportunities and made me aware of new markets. They’re well worth the time I invest. They also sometimes drive me crazy. The one thing that most frequently makes me tense is when I see someone react to a rejection or critique by grumbling, “I guess I’ll never be published for kids because I just refuse to dumb down my writing.”

Published children’s writers don’t dumb down their work – ever. “Dumbing down” means condescending to the reader and the second anyone tried that, his/her chance of publication would be virtually nil. Some children’s writers craft work that is intentionally challenging – work that embraces deep themes and complex ideas. But themes and ideas are never what the message board grumblers mean when they insist they won’t “dumb down.”

Invariably those folks are talking about approach, word choice, structure, pace, or vocabulary. What they mean is that they want to write for children and teens in exactly the same voice they would use to write an academic treatise or a literary adult novel. What they mean is that they don’t want to do the work of capturing an authentic voice that connects with a reader who is not them. What they mean is that they don’t want to do the work and they don’t want to take the blame either. They insist the blame lies in publishing that demands they “dumb down.”

But publishers don’t want them to dumb down. Many times I have heard editors and agents say they’re looking for smart books or smart humor. But smart doesn’t mean academic. Smart doesn’t mean dry. Smart doesn’t mean trying to force your reader to like what you like. Smart doesn’t equal middle aged.

Smart Books Connect

Books can be challenging. Harry Potter challenged younger readers to stick with a thick book from beginning to end. A Single Shard challenged readers to explore a culture that was different from theirs. Loser challenged readers to think about the way they look at kids who are different. Holes challenged readers to follow several distinctly different storylines and viewpoints and to have the patience to wait for them to connect. None of these books were dumb, but all of them were authentic.

Kids can tell when they’re being talked down to – they can also tell when you haven’t done the work of understanding their culture, their viewpoint, and their interests. Can you imagine being asked to write a book set in a culture substantially different from your own, one that uses English but in a different way from how you use it? Now imagine doing that with zero time spend actually looking at that culture. Imagine just assuming they should accept how you do things or else they’re stupid? Do you think you could land publication for that book?
This doesn’t mean you need to learn all the trendy slang. Trendy slang will date your work and many publishers are leery about that. But it does mean your characters need to sound like kids, think like kids, and (to mention a very basic thing) have names that real kids have. Names? Sound like an odd thing to mention? Editors say one of the quickest ways they can tell if an author is out of touch with real kids is if they see characters named Sally, Betty, John, and Richard – in other words, names that you just don’t see in schools today. Your story will actually feel more authentic with a completely made up name like Desinique than with a name like Sally.

So what are some of the ways writers can fail to connect with readers?
__ Overly formal word choices
__ Overly formal sentence structure.
__ Long monologues.
Again, the problem isn’t that readers wouldn’t know what a formal word means or cannot follow a formal sentence structure. It’s because they won’t believe you if you use them. They won’t believe in a bunch of teens who talk like middle-aged lawyers. They won’t believe in a bunch of young children who launch into long soliloquies about duty, emotion, morality, or pretty much anything else. If they don’t believe you, you’ve lost the chance to make your story connect.

Smart Books Provoke

Another thing you can do without ever dumbing down is provoke readers to think. Smart writing doesn’t try to raise someone else’s child. Smart writing doesn’t tell kids what to think. Smart writing just coaxes them to think about something new or sometimes something very familiar in a totally new way. It draws readers out of the day-to-day rut of thinking about just those things under the reader’s nose and expands the world.

A smart book might provoke the reader to think about injustice – what is it really? Might it be something different than we think? Can it be hidden by calling it something else? A smart book might provoke the reader to think about power – what is it? How does it affect your choices and actions? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Smart books get the reader to ask the questions, to think – explore – examine. It doesn’t tell the reader what to think but provokes the reader to think.
But...but...but...what if they don’t get it? Shouldn’t we be trying to show them what to do in order to be a positive part of society?
Smart Books Respect

A smart book respects the reader’s ability to think and make wise choices when presented with sufficient perspective. A smart book recognizes that just because a reader uses contractions, speaks in bursts instead of monologues and has developed a whole language to simplify typing with your thumbs doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with that person’s brain. A smart book knows you learn more by working out a problem than by being told the solution.

At the end of a smart book, the plot is brought to a satisfying ending but the thinking has just begun. A smart book respects that thought process and a smart writer sets aside agenda, ego, and laziness to do what it takes to write a smart book. There’s nothing dumb about that.

7. Good News

Donna Marie West: My non-fiction article, "UFOs: More Than an Invention of the Modern Mind" is in the July issue of the online magazine SUNDAY@6.

What's Your Good News? Send to -- be sure to put "good news" in the subject line since I get a lot of book announcements due to the review work I do. So I don't want your good news to slip through the cracks.

8. For All Subscribers

Many of our enews issues are being blocked from getting to all of our subscribers. It can be difficult to convince your email provider that you truly want to receive this enews. Therefore we've created a list of directions to make it easier for you find the exact steps to ensure the enews always makes it to your inbox.

Please, check out this link for specific directions to ensure you get every issue of the Children's Writers eNews.

To Unsubscribe from the email version of Children's Writers eNews, go to
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To have your address changed, email and do the following:
1. TELL ME that it's a change of address for the enews. I handle a lot of things so if you don't tell me what you want me to do, I may not do it.
2. TELL ME your OLD address as well as the NEW one. I cannot search by your name. I need the old address.
3. DO NOT send me a mass mailing that you sent to everyone in your address book that just tells me your new email. I won't know what you want me to do or if it's really for me at all. And I'll probably just delete it.

 on: July 14, 2014, 10:42:55 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by judyr
I'm bad for telling too much anyway. Maybe present tense isn't a good idea for me.

 on: July 14, 2014, 07:48:30 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by jfields
There's almost nothing that's NEVER done in middle grade, but present tense is fairly rare. When I've seen it, it's usually in contemporary and fairly literary. It maybe gives the purest sense of voice and immediacy, but there's a REAL problem with telling in the books I've read...they tend to be very internal and a bit slow (for my taste). It's not a viewpoint I can sustain (personally, as a writer) as it just doesn't work for my writing nature and comes out sounding forced.

 on: July 14, 2014, 07:24:42 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by judyr
Another question about 1st person. Does writing it in present tense make a difference. I love 1st person present tense when it's done well. What makes the decision to do it that way? Is it ever done in MG?

 on: July 11, 2014, 07:29:18 AM 
Started by KatieC - Last post by judyr
I've been trying to study multiple 3rd person POV, and the hardest part for me is the specific reason why that character should be the POV for a scene. I like the idea of using whichever character moves the story forward, but I don't like omniscient. I'm drafting a MG novel with 5 primary characters, some more prominent than others, and I'd like to be able to use each person's POV as necessary to get to know each character as intimately as possible... I might be in over my head.  Undecided

 on: July 10, 2014, 01:50:31 PM 
Started by Ellen - Last post by Ellen
I felt the same, Jan! I was too late to sign up for any Jim Butcher events, but I got into a couple of the Scott Westerfeld ones! <insert squee here> And! The events for both of them were at no extra cost (just the badge to get into the conference)!

 on: July 10, 2014, 01:25:58 PM 
Started by KatieC - Last post by KatieC
I also loved the City of Ember (not the other books in the series, really, just that first one). You should definitely read it! Smiley

I've actually used multiple POV's a few times now. In a romance you almost certainly need the hero and heroine's POV. In my YA supernatural/fantasy book I have three POV's. It was hard to adjust to writing it, and making sure each character had their own unique voice. For the most part, each of the three characters had a separate "part" in the story, but each part went toward solving the main problem. Because of that, there was very little overlap in what this character saw, versus what that character saw, etc. By that I mean I didn't have all three characters in the same scene, and then just pick one of the character's POV's to tell the scene from. In most scenes the characters were not together, and in the ones where they were together, there was a specific reason I chose to tell the scene from whichever POV I chose. Does that make any sense?  Tongue

 on: July 10, 2014, 12:55:42 PM 
Started by KatieC - Last post by salex
I'm trying this technique in my Nano novel. The story is about one person and what happened, but it has three other people who are important to the plot. I'm using the chapter division Jan mentioned.

And you need to read The City of Ember series. It's a great read.

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