Janet Wilson, founder of Dernier Publishing

Like to listen to some creative writing tips? Write for a Reason is all about helping Christians who write stories for kids, teens and YAs.

Some of the podcasts are mini; some are a bit longer… all are designed to help you take your novel from good to great, so you can thrill your readers with your stories and get them into readers’ hands. 🙂

We all need encouragement and support – and we need training too, to give us confidence in our skill.

So grab your writing journal and a pen… and get ready to be inspired!

What Is Your Protagonist Wearing?

Hi, Janet here. Today I have a fun writing assignment for you!

Listen to the podcast, then bust out your writing journal and get writing…

Have fun!

Every blessing,
Janet

P.S. Would you like to join our Writers for a Reason Unite membership group? More details here. We’d love to have you!

Adding Colour to Your Stories

Just a quick writing tip, to help your improve your writing.

Today we’re talking about adding colour to your stories…

Enjoy!

If you’d like more free writing tips, or would like help with your story, hop on over to the Write for a Reason website.

See you there!

11 Issues Readers Have with Novels

Hi! In this episode of the Write for a Reason podcast (for Christians who write novels for children and teens) we look at 11 different things readers hate about novels. It’s surprisingly easy to fall into these traps… so get listening and make sure you don’t annoy your readers!

Blessings,
Janet

Writing and Obtaining Good Book Reviews – Interview with Brenda Daniels

Apologies for the long delay in getting a new podcast out to you. Time has just run away with me… but at last, I have a good one for you, if you’ve ever been stuck what to write in a book review, or want an easy way to get reviews of your own books from readers!

The whole subject of book reviews came up in our writers for a reason unite group – there’s a certain amount of confusion about what makes a good book review, and we want to do it well, so asked book reviewer and blogger Brenda Daniels to come and talk to us (all the way from South Africa!), to give us clarity and make the whole thing simpler.

Brenda has worked as a freelance journalist for 20 years and has her own blog – A Feast of Tales – on which she features book reviews. In the last few years she has tried her hand at fiction and has written two children’s novels, a dissertation of children’s short stories and a number of other short stories, one of which won a prize.

I’ve asked Brenda if we can discuss two different sides of writing book reviews:

  1. How to write the perfect review yourself, for fellow authors’ books – or any book you’ve read, for that matter. What to put in, what to leave out… best practice – that sort of thing.
  2. What to ask readers to put in their reviews for our books. This is a really useful thing to know! As you are aware, having good book reviews can make a massive difference to book sales, and if we can make it simpler for our readers, so much the better!

So grab a pen and paper, or your writing journal and get stuck in to the podcast. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

See you next time,

Janet

The Structure of Chapters – it’s More Important than You Think!

In this episode of the Write for a Reason podcast, I talk to author Jubilee Lipsey about the structure of chapters. That may sound like a bit of a dry topic, but actually there’s so much more to it than meets the eye. It’s a fascinating topic, and I’m sure you will learn a lot!

After all, you do want your readers to find each of your chapters enthralling, right?

So grab a pen and paper, or your writing journal, and get ready to find out what needs to go in every chapter… Jubilee has come up with lots of great tips that will give you clarity as you plan and write each chapter of your novel. And what to do if you get stuck!

Enjoy!

Jubilee is a biblical fiction author who recently published her first rapid release novel trilogy (all three books released within a couple of months!) on the friendship of David and Jonathan, along with an accompanying Bible study. You can find out all about Jubilee and her books (My Brother, the King, My Rival, the King and My Father, the King) on www.jubileelipsey.com.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Five Positive Ways to Handle Rejection

Today’s podcast is all about rejection – shudder!

Scary topic, I know. Sharon Tedford, an English writer living in Dallas (listen to the podcast for how that happened!) comes to share her wisdom with us, and gives us 5 positive ways we can handle rejection.

She’s a talented creative writer… but still suffers from that awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling when facing rejection – as most of us do.

Rejection is a big thing, isn’t it, for writers? Whether we fear rejection so much it stops us from sending proposals/pitches in the first place, or whether it hits us hard when we receive back a rejection letter from a publisher we thought was a certain match for our story, it can stop us in our tracks.

And let’s face it, it hurts.

Sharon shares five positive ways we can handle rejection, so we can become, as she calls it, ‘contented rejected’.

It will make you think about ‘rejection’ in a whole new way.

Don’t miss this one! 🙂

Have a lovely weekend,

Janet

P.S. If you’d like to buy the book from The Women of Write Texas which Sharon mentions (which includes Sharon’s chapter on becoming contented rejected), you can do so here (USA) or here (UK). It’s called The Write Calling, Encouragement from the Writer’s Heart.

Five Simple Steps to Getting Your Book Published on Kindle – Interview with Christopher Benner

Are you thinking about publishing your book on kindle?

Today on the Write for a Reason podcast I’m delighted to welcome Christopher Benner, author of The Dragons of Ederstill. This is Christopher’s first book, and is for young adults.

Christopher decided to publish his book on kindle because he was on a limited budget, and today he gives us the five simple steps anyone can take to get their book on to the kindle platform quickly and easily.

As a bonus, Christopher also shares a marketing strategy that has brought him over 900 downloads of his book in just five weeks, so grab a pen and paper and get ready to take notes… this could soon be you!

Here are some of the links we mention in the podcast:

Kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200645680 (Step by step formatting for kindle)

For keyword research:

Keywordtool.io and Ahrefs.com/amazon-keyword-tool

Click here to take a look at the Write for a Reason Book Marketing Academy.

And of course, if you’d like to buy The Dragons of Ederstill, you can download it from the UK kindle platform here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dragons-Ederstill-Christopher-Benner/dp/B0B3RL883X.

(or from your own kindle store.)

Christopher is also offering the audiobook of The Dragons of Ederstill free from his own website:

Bennerfamilyfarms.com/audiobook.

Wow, what a lot of great value! Do subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss future episodes – lots more to come!

And please share with a writer friend. 🙂

Don’t forget, today is a gift to use wisely. Only you can write your story, and if you feel called to write, someone, somewhere is waiting for it.

Blessings abundant on your writing,

Janet

Bringing Out Deep Emotions

The better we can express deep emotions in our characters, the more we will engage our readers.

Here’s an exercise for you to do that you need never show to anyone, to help you get your emotions out into words. It will help you with your stories, I promise!

Write freely without editing for at least ten minutes on each of the following topics (if you find it too difficult to write in the first person, write as if a narrator is watching you):

  • A time when you were frightened. Maybe the terrible thing happened, maybe it didn’t. But write about it now.
  • A time when you were truly happy. Maybe the best thing that ever happened to you!
  • A time of deep disappointment. A dream smashed, maybe, or when friends betrayed you.
  • A time you were filled with love. When you would have done absolutely anything for that person.
  • A time when you were filled with anger. An anger that made you want to get justice, or revenge… and maybe you did?
  • A time you felt totally helpless. You were totally at the mercy of someone else.
  • A time you felt overcome with sadness. We have all suffered loss. Write about that grief you felt.
  • A time you laughed until you cried. You could no longer stop laughing than stop the world turning!

Don’t pick the easiest topic – pick the most difficult, even if it’s tough to do. Write freely about how you felt. Be totally honest. You can use “unsuitable” language as nobody need see what you have written. Be free to let all your emotions run out of yourself on to the page – spit it out! Write about the unfairness, the rage, the delirious joy, the terrible feeling that things might never change, things that were said. Write about the people who helped you and the people who made things worse for you (and maybe what you would have liked to do to them).

How did your emotions affect you physically? Write how long the feelings lasted and how it has affected you since. Write how you feel about these memories now. Leave nothing out!

If your characters can express depth of emotion in your stories, they will be able to engage your readers at an emotional level. They might even be able to help them. That terrible or wonderful experience you have been through might be an enormous help to a new generation of readers. “Someone understands” is a wonderful feeling.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share with your writer friends and hop on over to write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands.

If you’re in the process of writing your novel, I’d love to invite you to join Writers for a Reason Unite – check out the details on write for a reason.com. 

All for a small fee a month.

I’ve loved it! It’s been really valuable to me to have someone to bounce ideas off! And I really need the accountability and encouragement!” – Angela

What you get:

  • Twice monthly Zoom group meetings
  • Membership in a small ‘Writing Buddy Group’ (such good fun!)
  • Writing assignments to add depth to your novel.
  • Live Q and A sessions so you can ask anything when you get stuck
  • Chat with other members 24/7… and other extra bonuses!

I’d love you to join us! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

So don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Do You Ever Feel Like Giving Up Writing, Because it’s Just Too Hard?

Hi folks,

I have another podcast for you! This one is from Pam Daunton, who recently had her first novel, The Dove Stone, published. (Congratulations, Pam!)

You will be inspired by her writing journey. She started off great, but then gave up when she realised that writing a book was much more difficult than she thought it would be.

Then… well, I’ll let her tell her own story!

If you struggle sometimes, having realised that there’s much more to writing and promoting a book than you thought, and feel like giving up, don’t miss  this episode.

Because, if you’ve been called to write, someone, somewhere is waiting for your book.

Don’t bury your talent; never give up! Write for a Reason is here to help you, and the Lord is on your side! xxx

Janet

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the 50 Ways to Get Your Book Noticed training  I mention in the podcast.

Getting your story written is only the first part of your job as a writer. Marketing is equally essential, but it can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? What are the best things you can do?

This training is going to help you quit the overwhelm and give you some ideas you can put into practice immediately.

It’s taken from the Write for a Reason Book Marketing Academy, coming soon. I will tell you all about it during our time together. Love to see you there. More details here.

Should You Edit an Old Manuscript, or Start a New Story?

The idea of talking about this came from one of our Write for a Reason students. She asked me this excellent question: “My question concerns what target I should set myself in my writing. I know I’ve made some progress over the last few years, and hopefully a bit more as a result of your course [The Write for a Reason Academy]. Now I need to decide to be motivated to focus on a new story, or new draft of a previous one, so any guidance you can give me on this would be helpful.”

Are you familiar with this dilemma? I certainly am! When we have come to the end of a particular writing project, or want to go back to writing after a break, there is a decision to be made. Should I re-write a manuscript that never get published, write the ending to a partly-written story we neglected to finish, or start something completely new?

It’s an issue that can grind us to complete inactivity if we’re not sure of the way forward!

We spend so long hopping from one to the other without any clarity, that we end up feeling disillusioned and out of focus… so much so that we can stop writing altogether if we’re not careful.

 And that’s a disaster we definitely want to avoid!

I can’t, of course, make this decision for you, but personally I think (feel free to disagree!) that re-writing old stories has limited value – their main value was in the practice.

If we are continuing to learn our craft, each story we write will be better than the one before, so my advice would be to start something you are really enthusiastic about, (putting into practice all the tips you have gleaned since your last story; better dialogue, a tighter plot, more engaging characters, for example) and set yourself a target so that you finish it.

What do you think?

So… Are you happy writing your current story? Are you tempted to give up? Let me know!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, to make sure you don’t miss out and leave the link on your online writing groups – it will help Write for a Reason to get found by more writers. It’s great to share the wealth!

If you’d like lots more free writing tips, hop on over to write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands.

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story.

Here’s the link to go to the Write for a Reason website.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Making the Most of Your Childhood Memories

Thanks for coming over! I think you will enjoy this episode – it’s more than a creative writing tip – there’s an exercise for you to do… and I get real about some of my own childhood memories!
So, a  generally excellent piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. It makes sense. How can you describe the atmosphere of the crowd at a football match during the taking of a crucial penalty unless you have experienced it for yourself?

If you were bullied, bereaved, lonely or abused as a child, you can write about these things with a depth that can touch hearts.

All sorts of memories from your childhood can add depth to your writing, too, such as the feeling of freedom when playing with friends, the joy of a birthday surprise, the disappointment at being left out, the pride at winning a competition after working hard for it . . . nothing in life is wasted for a writer!

Bearing in mind that we are writing Christian stories for children and young people to encourage and inspire, here’s an exercise for you: Find yourself an evening on your own (or at least one uninterrupted hour), a pad of paper or laptop, and write a list of a few of your own childhood memories – they can be good, bad or ugly!

Here is my list in no particular order:

  • Sewing patchwork alone on the stairs in the sunshine
  • An adult embarrassing me in front of cousins I had only just met
  • The dread of a new school term
  • Walking miles to the sweet shop to buy a quarter of sweets (showing my age!)
  • Many contented hours playing dolls with my sister (we used to pretend to talk to each other through our watches . . . we were way ahead of our time :-))
  • Reading under the bedclothes with a torch. Bedtime? Not if I hadn’t finished my book!
  • Stealing biscuits from the tin (me and my partner in crime/sister!)
  • Going to church for the first time aged thirteen – it blew me away. God was in that place, reflected in the people. I felt like I had come home.

Once you have a list a bit like mine, pick one memory and write about it – not just what happened, but how you felt. Nothing really terrible happened to me in my childhood, but if you find it hard to write in the first person because of the nature of your memories, you might find it helpful to write in the third person, looking at what happened from a narrator’s point of view. Write as it comes to you, raw and without editing – just write and write and write until you are done. Write about the event, how you felt, what you sensed, how you feel about it now, the effects it still has on you, and what the Lord has done in your life through it.

Then, who knows – maybe you can use something of your past in your stories – it will bring you closer to your readers when they see that you understand their pain and their joy, and that there is hope for healing. Isn’t that what write for a reason is all about?

Trust that helps! If it does, please comment below and share with your friends – together we can make a difference. 🙂

A Crazy Exercise to Practice Using All the Senses!

Listen to the latest Write for a Reason podcast for an excellent writing tip – and an exercise that will help you to grip your readers with all their senses. Get ready for sweaty palms – I’m not giving anything else away!

Your Best Writing Tips

After fracturing my elbow, everything has become more of a challenge, including one-handed typing!

So this week I asked you for your own best writing tips and here they are…

Shout out to all of you who sent in tips to encourage and inspire your fellow writers. They are brilliant!

Enjoy. 🙂

If you’d like to look at doing the Write for a Reason Academy, check it out here

Five Ways to Improve Your Writing Instantly! (And they’re not what you think!)

Welcome to the Write for a Reason podcast. My name is Janet Wilson; I’m a publisher of Christian fiction for young people with Dernier Publishing. If you are a Christian, and new to writing stories for kids and teens, stay tuned for encouragement, creative writing tips and actionable strategies you can implement immediately to become a better writer.

Recently on the podcast we’ve had some very interesting interviewees… Joy Vee, who gsve us advice about book launches, Ruth Leigh, who talked about manuscript criticism, and Katherine Blessan, who gave us the lowdown on how to do a book blog tour. Plus they gave us lots of other helpful tips and useful bit of advice.

Today I’m going it alone! I am covering slightly different but no less important ground.

Today I have for you, five simple tips that can improve your writing immediately. You might be thinking yeah, yeah… but keep listening and you’ll see!

So, taking a few minutes to prepare yourself before you sit down to write can improve your creativity and your output hugely.

I wonder what you’re thinking – what will these simple ways be? Reading, a practice exercise, turning off the internet? Well, those are all great things, but the five things I have for you today are much more basic!

  1. Exercise. Yup, exercise! Even just a few minutes of aerobic activity before you start writing can make your brain sharper, helping you to concentrate and come up with creative ideas. Fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise is ideal. You don’t have to go to the gym – a brisk walk around the block is fine! Anything to get your blood flowing is good.
  2. Have a healthy meal or snack. Sharpen your mental focus with some good brain foods: wholegrain cereals, fruit, salad, nuts and seeds, fish, lean meat, beans and pulses. Avoid fatty and sugary foods when you want to write, as these can make you sluggish. A square of dark chocolate can do wonders if you are craving something sweet – I always keep some in the kitchen cupboard!
  3. Have a glass or two of water. It is a well known fact that dehydration can cause fatigue. Drinking plenty of water can help you think faster and clearer. If you really don’t like the taste of water, try it with a squeeze of lemon juice, or try fruit/herbal teas. My favourite is peppermint! (I grow mint in the garden, so it’s free. :-))
  4. Take a few minutes to pray. Let’s be honest, how often do we forget to pray until we’re stuck? But if we are writing to encourage and inspire children and teens in their faith, prayer is essential. After all, the God to whom we pray is the one who may use our stories to touch hearts and lives. That’s an awesome responsibility. Dare we write and not pray?
  5. Remember your purpose. Look at a photo of the children you are writing for. Having these precious faces imprinted on your mind as you site down to write will help you with clarity and determination. You will also be thinking of them as you write your dialogue and your scenes – which will no doubt improve your story!

So there you go, five simple things you can do straight away to improve your writing!

If you’ve enjoyed this, please leave a review, and if you have any tips for healthy snacks, please share them with us! It’s wonderful to be able to encourage each other. 🙂

Oh, and if you are feeling sluggish during your writing and need a break, do a mini version of all these four things again. Move around, jog on the spot, have a glass of water and a piece of fruit, take a quick look at that photo, then stop to pray. You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes.

Right! Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, to make sure you don’t miss out on future episodes…

If you’d like further help with your novel, our Writers for a Reason Unite group is open for new members until Thursday 19th May. Check it out on write-for-a-reason.com/unite.

It’s an absolutely brilliant way to get your novel written – we have great fun, fellowship, teaching and you can ask me anything you like about your novel! There’s a special price for this week only – and we will be closing the doors again for a while, while new members settle in. So if you want to get your novel finished and the best it can be, now’s the time. The link is: write-for-a-reason.com/unite.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Until next time,

Janet

How to Do a Book Blog Tour: Interview with Author Katherine Blessan

Hello and welcome! Lovely to have you here.

One of the brilliant ways you can increase visibility for your novel is with a book blog tour.

Katherine Blessan, author of Lydia’s Song and Home Truths with Lady Grey, strips away the overwhelm and gives us 6 simple steps we can follow to do our own DIY book blog tour!

If you are starting to think about how you will sell your book once it’s published (whether you are self-publishing or hoping for a contract with a traditional book publisher), this episode is for you.

During the interview, Katherine mentions the Reedsy website – here’s the link.

And here’s the link to Katherine’s website, where you can find out lots more about her writing journey, and buy her books, of course!

Thanks for listening. Let me know if you find it useful! And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on your favourite app, or come on over to Write for a Reason and have a binge listen! 🙂

Until next time,

Janet

Interview with Author Ruth Leigh – Why Do We Need to Get Our Manuscripts Critiqued?

Hello and welcome!
I’m delighted to introduce you today to Ruth Leigh. Ruth has been writing for a long time, but has only recently starting writing fiction… and she hasn’t just dipped her toes, she’s jumped right in with both feet! When her catering business crashed at the beginning of the first lockdown… well, I’ll let you listen for yourself. 🙂
Ruth gives us some excellent writing tips, as well as inspiring us with her story – and gives us some excellent information about getting your work critiqued.
You can buy her books on her website – www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk (if you’d like a signed copy, with extra treats!) or from your favourite bookstore.
You can also get in contact with her through the contact form, if you’re interested in manuscript criticism.
Until next time, be blessed and keep writing, because only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.
Janet

Book Launch Tips – Interview with Author Joy Vee

It’s never too early to start to think about your book launch!

Joy Vee is about to launch books 5 and 6… so is getting good at launches. 🙂 She is kind enough to come on the podcast and give some tips as to what worked for her.

So get out your writing journal or the notepad app on your phone, and get ready to make some notes…

If you’d like to get in touch with Joy, or buy any of her books, you can get in touch with her through her website.

Her books are:
The Treasure Man
Love from Siena
Kai: Born to Be Super
Kai: Making it Count,

and her two new books:
They Whisper About Us 
The Letters She Never Sent.

Don’t forget, writers need to be readers, so these would be great books to have on your shelf…

Thanks Joy, for this inspiring episode!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast for lots more writing tips – and marketing tips, too!

See you next time,

Janet

Some Tips for the Ending of Your Story

Welcome to the Write for a Reason podcast. My name is Janet Wilson; I’m a publisher of Christian fiction for young people with Dernier Publishing. If you are a Christian, and new to writing stories for kids and teens, stay tuned for encouragement, creative writing tips and actionable strategies you can implement immediately to become a better writer. Thanks for coming over, now let’s jump straight in to today’s writing tip. Today I’m going to be giving you a few hints about ending your story.

Once the goal has been reached and the purpose of your story fulfilled, you need to tie off loose ends fairly quickly or simply leave them to your readers’ imaginations.

You know the story of Cinderella? It finishes with the heroine riding off into the sunset with her prince. Have you ever wondered what happens to her nasty step-family? Me neither! We don’t care, because the story is about Cinderella – the only thing that matters is that good has triumphed over evil and she has her prince!

One sign of a good writer is knowing what can be left out. Allow your readers to sigh in satisfaction as your hero revels in their success at the end of your story – then leave them on that high note as they close the book.

You don’t need a chapter on what happened to the evil step mother and those awful ugly sisters,after the wedding, for example. Imagine if you finished with that – how would you feel, going away from the story, with that the last thing in your mind?

Riding into the sunset after the wedding is so much more appealing for readers!

Equally, we don’t need a chapter with the honeymoon and the happy couple going back to the castle… unless you are planning on a sequel about Cinderella’s life as royalty! Don’t open up a new story arc unless you really need to.

Here’s an example of a good ending for a children’s novel – A Pennyworth of Peppermints, published by Dernier, by Mary Weeks Millard.

This book is set in Dorset on the south coast of England in WW1. The penultimate chapter is the one in which the last and final battle occurs. So all through the book, Ben, Vera and Sid have been searching for an enemy spy. Bit by bit they have got closer and closer, but in this last chapter, they get caught in his lair – an underground tunnel. It’s a very close thing (of course!) but the children manage to get the better of the spy, tie him up and get the police.

Phew! So that’s the last, big, dangerous conflict, when it seems that all has been lost – all sorted and finished!

In effect, the story has ended.

But we still need to tie off a few things.

The final chapter of P of P included these three things:

1. Ben, Vera and Sid have their photos taken for the local newspaper and they become local heroes for a few days. Nice!

2. They get the good news that Ben’s dad, who had been missing, presumed dead, in the trenches in France, had been found. He was a POW and would be home soon.

3. Lastly, there is a fire at the munitions factory where Ben’s mum had been working, and Ben was relieved, because it had been affecting her health. But Ben gets to help at the local shop, so will have wages of his own to help his mum, which will be a help.

The last page finishes with Ben running to the shop with a penny to buy peppermints, humming his favourite blessing song that his dad taught him. (Count your blessings.) This closes off the theme of the book, too, which is trusting in God, whatever the circumstances.

It’s actually a very relevant book for right now. You might like to get copies to give your church children – with the war in Ukraine raging as I speak, it will give your children the opportunity to talk about their fears and learn to trust God, as Ben did through the pages of the story.

Of course, you will need to consider the age of your readers, when you write your ending – but whatever age your are writing for, you do need to make sure you close off the loose ends.

We go into endings of stories in a lot more detail in the Write for a Reason Academy – do take a look at the course details if you think you could use a bit of extra help with the ending of your story. I’d love to be able to help you further in your writing. 🙂

But that’s at least a little bit about endings, which I hope you have found helpful.

If you’d like lots more free writing tips, hop on over to write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands.

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

What Is Your Protagonist’s Key Goal?

Welcome to the Write for a Reason podcast. My name is Janet Wilson; I’m a publisher of Christian fiction for young people with Dernier Publishing. If you are a Christian, and new to writing stories for kids and teens, stay tuned for encouragement, creative writing tips and actionable strategies you can implement immediately to become a better writer. Thanks for coming over, now let’s jump straight in to today’s writing tip. Today we’re going to be looking at your protagonist’s key goal.

If you know your protagonist’s key goal or final outcome in advance, you can work towards strengthening everything that takes them towards it (one conflict after another). Again, if you know what that key goal or outcome is (if you already have it in mind), you can avoid/remove anything that doesn’t serve to move the plot forward!

Simple, eh? Well, OK, it can take some thought, and some practice!

First, you need to decide what the key goal is. It could be that your very normal character becomes a detective or world-saver, and by the end of the story the crime is uncovered, spies apprehended, aliens despatched back from whence they came . . . or it could be a more subtle outcome. Perhaps your protagonist is fearful of everything and feels hopeless and trapped, but by the end of the story he finds courage and hope to face the future. It may very well be both! Often in novels there is both an action-related and a spiritual/moral goal. In the last podcast we discussed your character’s evolution (if you haven’t listened, do check it out). This is part of the goal!

Your protagonist might not know what his goal or outcome is, of course. It may be a big surprise to him! It may be that at the beginning of the story he lives in an abandoned building, but by the end he has a safe home. It may be that he has no idea that God exists, but by the end of the story she has discovered that he has a Father in heaven who cares for him. Perhaps at the beginning of the story he thought his goal was to be a millionaire, but by the end he realises that’s not all there is to life. There are endless possibilities, as endless as human imagination!

If you already have a manuscript, take a long, hard look at it. Does your protagonist have a key goal? Or what is your final outcome for him? If there is no clear goal, do you think he or she needs one? Once you’ve thought that through, go back through your story and see if there’s anything that needs strengthening – or cutting!

If you’re not really sure what I’m talking about, here’s a tip to help you: read a selection of children’s novels and decide what the protagonists’ key goals are. (You can buy Christian books from your local bookshop or from the Dernier Publishing website: www.dernierpublishing.com.) Have the authors managed to keep your interest while their protagonists are reaching their goals? Jot down your thoughts in a journal, so you can learn from them!

We go into plotting and planning your story in much more detail in the Write for a Reason Academy so if you feel you could do with some help, why not take a look? You can find more details on www.write-for-a-reason.com/academy.

In the meantime, enjoy a bit of goal setting, see where it takes you. 🙂

As I’m recording this, there’s war in Ukraine. And, sadly, many children all over the world are living through awful circumstances. Even children who have everything they need and live in safety have fears and issues that can seem enormous to them. And many of them are worried about the world they are living in. Wars, famines, conflicts… Children need books that will tell them of God’s love. Could you write a story where children find peace?

Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me.’ Christian writers, let’s keep writing stories that will show children that there is another way – that the light of Jesus shines, even in the deepest darkness.

As Christian writers we face these three temptations (probably many more, but I’ll stick to these three for now!):

  • Thinking that our writing doesn’t matter – it does!
  • Thinking that writing books for children isn’t a priority – it is!
  • Thinking that we can do it all on our own without any help.

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Do You Believe in Evolution? (aka Character Arc)

Do you Believe in Evolution?

I know, that’s a really silly title, but at the end of the day, I’m talking about change.

Between the beginning and end of your novel, if your main character hasn’t evolved (‘moved on/changed’ if you prefer!), your story probably lacks dynamism.

It may not be true to life, either, because as human beings every event we go through changes us in some way. You might have a great plot for your story, but if it doesn’t affect your main character in some way it will lack depth. Perhaps your protagonist might have learnt something about themselves along the way, come to a particular decision, found a new and needed skill, or in some way improved themselves or decided to improve the lives of others.

If, during the process of your story, your character becomes a Christian, you will have needed to move them on from perhaps being diffident or antagonistic to realising their need for a saviour, to recognising that Jesus is the way. You don’t, of course, have to do that, just because you are writing ‘Christian fiction’ – that’s just by way of example. Equally, your protagonist may have gone through a process from being fearful of a particular situation to finding peace. They may have gone from being excluded from school due to their destructive anger to channelling their anger into working for a positive change in attitudes at their community . . . the possibilities are, of course, endless.

If you have a manuscript already written, have a read through and see how your main character if different at the beginning of your story than at the end. Is the change obvious, realistic, inspirational? Will it encourage your readers?

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please subscribe to make sure you don’t miss future episodes, then share with your writer friends and hop on over to write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands. 

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Like to follow Janet on instagram?: @janetfromwriteforareason

How to Keep Writing When You Don’t Feel Like It

This is more of an encouragement than a series of creative writing tips… although I do offer some tips at the end…

This morning I read Jesus’ parable of the seeds and the sower, and as I reflected on being good soil and bearing fruit, my mind wandered to the parable of the talents. However many we have been given, we need to use them!

As writers, though, it’s easy to get disheartened when we don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. It’s tempting to begin to wonder if what we are doing is worthwhile, or if we are wasting our time, particularly if we have faced ‘rejection’ from a publisher (or more than one).

But let me encourage you today, don’t give up! Our children need good stories that speak of the love of God, of his forgiveness, of the joy of living in his presence. They need to know that God answers prayer, that he will never leave them or forsake them, that his grace is sufficient to help them in times of struggle. And the best way to pass on this wonderful good news is through story. How do I know? It’s what Jesus did. Even today, I was touched by the story of the sower and the parable of the talents, stories Jesus told.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of the task of finishing your novel, confused as to how to proceed with your manuscript, or discouraged in any way, why not make a list of all of the steps you need to take to complete your writing project, then start on that list, one item at a time?

You might need to get back to writing something you started so enthusiastically some while ago. If so, today’s a good day! Set yourself a realistic goal of so many words/pages a day, a week or a month, and determine to stick to that schedule. If you need to get back to editing your story, you can follow the same principle – maybe a chapter a week, or even a chapter a day if you can set the time aside.

If your problem is a blank sheet of paper (Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying that his worst fear was a blank page!) then just start writing. Excuse the expression, but put your seat in a seat and don’t get up until you have done your requisite number of words. Worried that it will be rubbish? The first draft often is, but you can go back and edit it fifty times if you want to, and maybe within that first scribble there will be some wonderful gems.

Afraid of failure? The only failure you need fear is burying your talent in the ground.

Four more tips to stay inspired:

  • Pray before you begin
  • Stick up a photo up of children you want to reach above your desk. Remind yourself that you are writing for them, and how will they hear if nobody tells them?
  • Write something every day
  • Get yourself a writing buddy to help keep you on track, or join a writers group.

So you may never be a best-selling author. But is that the point, is that your goal? If your story inspires one or two children to walk with God, would that not be worth all your effort? What about 100, or even 1,000? It would be amazing.

So be strong and very courageous!

Janet

P.S. If you think anyone else might find this post helpful, please share – we all need encouragement on our journey 🙂 Lots more encouragement and creative writing tips on  www.write-for-a-reason.com, where you can also sign up for my free Gripping Beginnings course.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/writeforareason)

Interview with Fiona Murphy, Writer for a Reason and First Time Author

This latest podcast episode is an interview with Writer for a Reason and first time author Fiona Murphy.

Like many of you, Fiona began writing a while ago, and it was all going quite slowly. After investing in the Write for a Reason Academy and getting a writing mentor, she finally finished her first book, Daisy’s Journey, which was published by Fisher King publishing earlier this month!

You will be encouraged to hear about the highs and lows in Fiona’s journey… and know that, if she can do it, you can do it too…

Plus Fiona has three excellent writing tips to share with you, to help you on your own writing journey.

Here’s a little bit about Fiona’s book, which is for 12-14s:

Daisy’s Journey Author: Fiona Murphy ISBN 978-1-914560-27-9

Socially anxious teenager, Daisy Davidson braves another new start when her family moves on again.

She begins the next college, terrified about struggling to fit in, but also keen to pursue her love of music.

An awkward encounter with gorgeous fellow harpist Giorgio followed by a put down by Lucy, leader of the college clique leaves Daisy feeling like her worst fears have materialised.

Her best friend, Jonno, is travelling the world and staying in touch is a challenge so Daisy feels very alone, until plain-speaking Grace befriends her.

After a freak accident and more challenges Daisy worries her tentative steps towards making new friends will be thwarted. However, her friendship with Grace deepens and her interest in Giorgio develops after a rowing competition and an invitation to Church.

Harp practice with Giorgio leads to her riding a rollercoaster of emotions, perplexed by his frequent elusiveness and confused about her priorities. After a chat with Jonno, who finally has a signal, Daisy has choices to make.

Fighting to face her fears, embrace opportunities and manage her emotions Daisy wonders if she’ll ever find the courage to let go and trust God’s promise of plans for hope and a good future.

Be inspired! You can listen to the podcast on the Write for a Reason website, or on your usual podcast platform – iTunes, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and many others. Don’t forget to subscribe, for lots more writing tips and encouragement!

And I’ll be in touch again soon.

Every blessing,

Janet

Showing Not Telling

Welcome to the Write for a Reason podcast. My name is Janet Wilson; I’m a publisher of Christian fiction for young people with Dernier Publishing. If you are a Christian, and new to writing stories for kids and teens, stay tuned for encouragement, creative writing tips and actionable strategies you can implement immediately to become a better writer. Thanks for coming over, now let’s jump straight in to today’s writing tip, which is all about Showing, not telling.

Some unsolicited manuscripts I receive have one major flaw; the lack of “showing” and lots of “telling”.

It’s a shame, because stories where readers are simply told what is happening can make for slow and dull reading, even when there’s an interesting plot and some great characters.

So what is this showing and telling?

“Showing” is more than a simple “telling” of the facts. It’s more illustrative and dramatic, and builds a picture in your readers’ minds, drawing them into the story and taking them closer to the action.

As Anton Chekov famously wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Here are a few more simple examples of show not tell:

Tell: It got dark. Show: What was left of the coloured clouds sailed away with the last blush of the sun and the cold sky filled with stars. (From London’s Gone.)

Tell: It was an incredible view.

Show: The beauty of it delighted me, as the hugeness and loneliness of it terrified me. (From Deepest Darkness by Denise Hayward.)

Tell: He sounded cross, though they couldn’t hear what he said.

Show: He growled something they couldn’t hear, then snapped his phone shut with a harsh click. (Extract from The Treasure Hunt)

In the first instances we are told the facts; in the second we are given a dramatic picture. In the last instance, the word “angry” isn’t mentioned at all; we have been shown that the man is cross instead.

See what a powerful tool this is in fiction writing; to show, not tell!

Now it’s over to you – why not look through your own story and see where you can change some telling into showing? If you’re still not sure, I’d be delighted to welcome you on the Write for a Reason course (lots more info on the write for a reason website), where we go into how to show not tell in much more detail.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share with your writer friends and hop on over to write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands.

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story – because if you don’t, they might not keep reading!

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

People Watching

Any time is a great time to people watch. You can get some great tips for when you are creating characters for your novel. If you are meeting with family and friends, or out and about, take a few moments to observe tell-tale signs that show how people are feeling.

Observe the look on the grandmother’s face when a grandchild is placed in her lap, and her movements as she rocks him. Watch how a small child jumps up and down with excitement. How does someone behave who is trying to shrink into the background . . . what about the person who wants to be the centre of attention?

Look at people’s faces, their expressions, the way they lean forward or back, their dress, their make-up (or lack of) . . . all the things that show their personality and how they are feeling.

If you get the chance, jot your observations down in a file or notebook, including as many details as you can remember. These will help you bring your characters to life when you get back to writing.

The best people to watch are the same age as the characters in your novel, so if you’re writing for 8-11s, see if you can find some children this age to watch – perhaps at church, or in your family.

Thanks for listening! If you found this helpful, hop on over to www.write-for-a-reason.com, where you will find lots more resources and encouragement to help you write excellent, relevant, fun novels and get them into your readers’ hands. 

If you haven’t yet done my free course, Gripping Beginnings, you can sign up and start immediately. This will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story.

Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your book, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

Will Your Readers Get That?

If you write novels for 8-14s, do you need to include quotes from Shakespeare plays, make a passing reference to the Spanish Inquisition, and have your protagonist quote Scripture?

We all use passing references to people, places and events we are familiar with in our writing, but we do need to consider the age of our target readers before mentioning things that are obvious to us, but might not be to them. Here are 3 things to watch out for when writing novels for children:

1. Before making references to historical events, check that your target readers will know what you are talking about. If you refer to the Spanish Inquisition, the Russian Revolution, the space race, or any other historical event even in passing, check that your readers will know to what this refers. This is particularly true if you are writing for an international market.

2. The same applies to historical people and their writings. Is your main character really likely to be able to quote Shakespeare? Will your readers know who Julian of Norwich is, or Charles Wesley? Will they know that Charles Darwin wrote the Origin of Species? Even ‘famous’ people from the last century may be totally unknown to your readers. A twelve-year-old may not know what The Beatles sang – if this makes you raise your eyebrows, how many Justin Bieber songs can you name? 🙂

3. Eight-year-olds may or may not be familiar with Bible stories, but either way they are unlikely to have read a lot of Scripture themselves. A small minority may have memorised a few verses . . . but make sure if one of your characters is quoting scripture in your novel, that it rings true. If you are writing for a reason, with a Christian message in your story, the temptation is to want to bring in God’s precious word – and quite rightly so! But be careful that you do it in a way that fits in with your story and will reach your readers.

If, after reading this writing tip, you look over your manuscript and decide you may have assumed too much knowledge in your readers, you have two choices. You can either:
 1. explain what you have written, or
 2. find a more relevant way to say what you want to say.

And if you’re not sure what your target readers will and won’t know, find some and ask them!

If you found this writing tip helpful, the Write for a Reasoncourse could be for you. We go into reaching your target readers in much more depth in Module One, which students have found very helpful.

May the Lord bless your writing! Do subscribe to the blog, to make sure you don’t miss out on further writing tips.

Janet

Action!

I think I may have mentioned something like this before in a writing tip, but it’s worth mentioning again as it’s a common problem I see in unsolicited manuscripts: when writing for this age group (8-14s) you need to start with some action.

If you begin your story with a character who is struggling with an emotional problem because of family, school or church, you risk losing your readers in the first few pages.

This is because:

  • Readers haven’t had a chance to build up a rapport with your protagonist, so don’t care about his/her emotional problem yet. They may do later in the book, if you allow us to get to know him/her first.
  • Children want exciting things to be going on a lot of the time. They love reading about danger, fun, excitement, mystery . . . as opposed to emotional problems, which can be depressing to read about, whether it’s bullying, parents’ divorcing, a house move, illness (the list of life’s struggles is, let’s face it, endless!)

Of course, you need to have an issue, a problem, something awful going on to make a story. Then your protagonist can, by the grace of God, win through in the end. But instead of starting your story with your emotional problem, consider how you could draw readers in differently. Could you begin with something fun and amazing, which will then throw the emotional problem into sharp relief? Could you start with something dangerous, exciting or mysterious, which will pull us into the story? While you are writing your exciting beginning, help us to get to know your engaging and captivating character. Then when the awful thing happens, we will care about them and want to read on.

Give it a go!

Getting Your Punctuation Right. (Who Eats Shoots and Leaves?)

We all know the one about the panda who eats shoots and leaves. Or is it that he eats, shoots and leaves?

Correct punctuation can at times be essential to the meaning of a sentence; but more than that, it can make your story so much easier and more pleasurable to read. If your story is confusing, or stilted; if readers have to go back to make sense of what they have read, they may give up, particularly children who struggle to read in the first place.

So when you are writing, make thoughtful use of all the punctuation marks available to you. Look at all these beauties: ! ? . , : ; – “ ( ) ” – . . . all there to help you in the crafting of your story!

If you are writing to share a message, you have even more reason to make sure your story reads well. Every so often, read what you have written out loud, to ensure each sentence and paragraph flow beautifully and that your readers will pause in all the right places. (Tip: vary the length of your sentences. This enhances the rhythm of your story.)

Sloppy punctuation is… sloppy. Your readers deserve the best – make sure you give it to them. 🙂

Talking about the best, if you really want to do your very best, and if you have found these creative writing tips helpful so far, why not consider doing the Write for a Reason Academy? Instead of a little random tip here and there, we systematically go through everything you need to write a successful story. We start by thinking about your gift and your aim, then go on to creating great characters. We also look at theme, narrative voice, settings, beginnings, endings and much more… then by the time you get to the end of the ten weeks (or however long you wish to take over the course – there’s no time limit), you will have all the skills and confidence you need to write a successful story. Students absolutely love it! It’s great fun and instructive at the same time. You can take a look here. One student said, You have taught me so much and been always a great encourager, thank you. You’ve never made me feel like it’s too late or that I’m to old or not good enough. Instead, I have felt hopeful and excited. I want to keep writing and honour the Lord with what I believe he’s put in my heart.”

Do check it out. Your gift and your readers are worth the investment.

Hope to see you there!

Love in Christ,

Janet

Keeping Up the Pace

Today’s podcast is all about getting the pace of your story right – and it’s for Christians who write fiction for kids and teens.
Pace is one of those invisible things that helps your novel to shine above the rest.
I hope you find all the ideas and tips helpful! If you do, please share with a friend.
I mention the Write for a Reason Academy in today’s podcast – you can sign up here.
The free course is called Gripping Beginnings and you can find that here.
Thanks for listening!
See you next time,
Janet

Interview with Writer for a Reason, Joy Vee

You will love my interview with Joy Vee, author of several Christian children’s books! Her story is a real inspiration. If you are writing for children and are unsure of the way, Joy’s story of doing the Write for a Reason Academy, writing stories then getting them published will give you all the encouragement you need to keep going.

So, listen, and be inspired!

Janet

Interview with Writer for a Reason, Martin Smith

I have known Martin Smith for quite a few years now. Martin has done the Write for a Reason course and participated in various challenges, but most importantly, has gone on to have three books published!

Here are the details of his books:

Treasure Tree by Martin Smith ISBN 978-1907509964

Mystery Tours with Treasure Tree by Martin Smith ISBN 978-1788157100

Both of these books are published by Onwards and Upwards.

The latest book is Crew in Crisis by Martin F. Smith ISBN 978-1398419179 published by Austin Macauley.

Do take a look at Martin’s books – and be encouraged. If Martin can do it, so can you!

Until next time, keep writing,

Janet

Who are you writing for?

We’ve touched on this a little bit before, but it’s so important, I’m bringing it up again:

Who do you want to write for?

This may sound like a daft question, but you need to know who you want to write for, BEFORE starting your novel.

You can have what we think is a brilliant idea for a story, but you need to check that it will resonate with your target readers.

I have been asked more than once to read a story, to see what age of readers it would best suit. Unfortunately, this is completely the wrong way round. We need to write the story for our readers, not the other way round.

There’s another issue, too… What was relevant when we were younger might not be relevant now. Times and culture change, along with fashions and even names (I am of the Janet era – you can pretty much guess how old I am by my name!).

So if you want to write for ten-year-old boys, find out what they like, what they hate, what they spend their time doing, what they would spend their time doing if they could (important difference!)… then write a book with characters, a plot and a setting they will find compelling.

Don’t know what they like? Ask them! It will help you keep your novel relevant and fun.

Trust that’s a useful tip. Don’t forget, only you can write your story, and someone’s waiting for it. So don’t give up…

Until next week, blessings abundant,

Janet

P.S. Don’t forget to share these writing tips in writing groups you belong to.

Voices for your Characters

One important element of creating good dialogue is to make sure that each of your characters has his or her own voice.

Just for fun, in the Write for a Reason course, one of the assignments is to imagine telling a group of your family/friends some astonishing news (e.g. that you have bought a new car or are going on holiday to the Seychelles) and write a dialogue based on their different reactions.

It makes fascinating reading!

In just the same way as people respond differently to the same news, you need each of the characters in your novel to have their own voice. There’s nothing worse than reading dialogue where all the characters sound the same, use the same tone, have the same reactions.

So, make sure you get to know your characters really well as individuals before you let them loose on your readers! Study how they think, how they feel, how they express themselves. Remember, too, that characters will respond differently depending on:

  • Their relationship with other characters present. For example, a teenager might express himself different way to his mother and his friends. 🙂
  • Their dominant characteristics. Angry people will be angry, jealous people jealous, kind people will be kind…
  • How open they feel they can be. A partner might wait until guests have gone to say what he/she really thinks!
  • Their interests. If talking about a favourite hobby, even the quietest person can become animated.

Here’s an exercise for you to try:

Get out your writing journal, and write a dialogue between a lad from a privileged background and a working class boy, about a mutual hobby. This will help you to remember when you are writing your novel, to give all your characters a distinctive voice!

P.S. Did you find this helpful? If you did, please pass on to a friend who would benefit, and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. Let’s share the blessing!

Have Fun with Freewriting!

Freewriting is a technique where for a set period of time you sit down and just write. It’s a great way to:

  • begin if you don’t know where to start
  • practice writing (practice makes better!)
  • gain confidence
  • get disciplined
  • write from the heart
  • get used to writing from your own experience
  • finish your first draft.

Try and write for at least ten minutes every day. This will flex your writing muscles!

One thing you must not do during your allotted freewriting time is to correct what you have written.

You have to turn off that internal editor and allow your creative side to get into the flow of writing.

Be warned: what you end up with will probably look like a mess. That’s OK though – you can go back and edit your writing as many times as you want.

If you haven’t got a writing project on the go at the moment, or if you fancy a change, here are some suggestions for practice subjects:

  • a time when you were frightened
  • a favourite place
  • how you feel about your church
  • your ideal home
  • a childhood memory.

Why not do each of these in your writing journal – ten minutes each should do it! It’s brilliant practice for when you come to write your novel.

Let me know how you get on – I’d love to hear from you! Have you done freewriting before? Did you enjoy it? Did it help you get in the flow?

Should You Ask Friends to Review Your Manuscript?

Should you ask friends and family to review your newly finished manuscript for you? Writers are often advised against it, because those who are close to us are likely to be more polite than honest, and may not have the necessary knowledge to make comments on the technical aspects of story writing.

However, although they are unable to advise on characterisation, plot, narrative voice and dialogue, does that mean that friends and family have nothing of value to offer? I would suggest they do!

Here are three things you could ask for comments on (carefully choosing people who will be both encouraging and honest, of course!), which would be useful feedback on your newly finished manuscript:

  1. At what point did they put the story down? As writers we are aiming to write stories that are so gripping that readers are unable to put the book down. Of course readers may sometimes be obliged to stop and get on with some other activity, but if several reviewers mention the same place, it could be that you should look at tightening up some aspect of that particular scene. Perhaps you could move the plot on a bit faster, cut out a bit of dialogue or change the scene completely.
  2. Was there anything in the story that didn’t make sense? When you are so close to your story, and have perhaps worked on it for weeks or months or even years, it’s easy to overlook sometimes glaring mistakes. These could be in timing, character, sentence structure or various other issues. A fresh pair of eyes could be useful in picking up these errors so you can sort them out.
  3. What was it about the story that remained with you? It may be that your hero was an inspiration to your readers, or your theme shone through. That would be encouraging! If not, it could be worth your while thinking about how you could improve your story in some way, to make sure that you have achieved your purpose.

After this initial feedback from trusted acquaintances, and hopefully having received some useful comments and made any necessary changes, there’s nothing like a professional manuscript criticism service… but at least you might have already corrected some obvious mistakes before you do.

Do you let your family and friends read your manuscripts? It would be great to hear your experiences!

Every blessing as you write,

Janet

P.S. I’d love you to follow me on twitter: @janetwilsonxxx and instagram: @janetfromwriteforareason. Hope to see you there – do say hi!

How Old Should Your Protagonist Be?

I have a really quick, but important creative writing tip for you today…

How old should your protagonist be?

Getting this one thing right or wrong can make or break your novel!

Here’s the thing:

Children like to read about other children either their own age or a bit older.

They tend not to be so keen on reading about younger children – not as the main characters, anyway – they have already been there and done that!

So if you want to write for 8-11s, make your protagonist 11, or thereabouts. If you are writing for 12-14s, make your protagonist 14 or above. If you’re writing for young adults, you will probably want your protagonist to be in their late teens.

Oh, and girls will read about boys, but boys aren’t generally so keen on reading about girls. Just saying!

Trust that helps!

Until next time,

Janet

Theme and Purpose

Writing for pure enjoyment is a wonderful thing! God has given us all gifts, and if you enjoy writing for fun, that’s great!

If, however, you want to write a story for a specific reason, it might help if you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who am I writing for (we covered that last week, right?)
  • What is the purpose of this story?
  • What reaction am I hoping to get from my readers?

Here’s an example: you may be thinking about writing a story for church children on the Good Samaritan theme. Your aim might be to help your readers to see that every person is a neighbour, even if other people don’t like them. You may want your readers to respond by being friendly and caring.

Whatever your purpose, write it down. Be specific. Then while you are planning and writing your story, keep your readers and your theme in mind from the beginning right to the end. It will help you stay on track!

Oh, and don’t forget that every story needs to have lots of fun and humour, and be exciting. As we’ve already said, even the most earnest of themes and purposes needs to be wound up in a thrilling plot. 🙂

We go into theme and purpose in a lot more depth in the Write for a Reason Academy – if you’re not sure about the theme of your story, this will definitely help you. The Write for a Reason Academy is a ten week online writing course you can do anywhere in the world. It will transform your writing – that’s a promise! I set it up to give new writers everything they need to write a successful first novel. You can read more about the course here.

Love in Christ,

Janet

Five Ways You Can Use Animals in Your Story

Children love animals! Well, most of them do, anyway, and if you have an animal in your story, that can help to engage your readers.

If your animals can help to solve a crime, find a missing person or be an asset in some way, so much the better. Equally, if there is an animal in need – hurt, in danger, or otherwise at risk, this could also add emotion to your story.

Dolphins, horses and ponies, cats, dogs, elephants, parrots or monkeys . . . it doesn’t matter really, as long as they help you to bring in lots of action and emotion!

How Many Characters Do You Need for Your Story?

How many characters do you need for your story?

The answer is, as few as possible! If you can keep the number of characters in your story down to the bare minimum, it will make your writing less complicated, thereby keeping the action going at a good pace. If, for example, you have two main characters, let’s say they are neighbours, and each of the children have several siblings, you could end up with eight or ten characters. Readers may quickly forget who is who and which sibling belongs to which family. There’s nothing wrong with a one-child family, if siblings aren’t part of the plot!

Another disadvantage to having a lot of characters is that you will need to use a lot of words to tell us all about them and how they come into the story. This can drag the story out and make the plot cumbersome.

Another quick tip about characters: children love to read how other children overcome obstacles, get the better of baddies and do all sorts of exciting, daring and dangerous feats . . . but they are not really that bothered about adults, so keep your grown-ups to a minimum.

Lastly, if you just have one or two main characters, you will have space for readers to get to know them really well, to get right into their hearts, their minds, their emotions. This will help us to truly engage with them and care about what happens to them. Always a good thing!

Trust that helps 🙂 Any comments, please do feel free to get in touch!

Thanks for listening! If you are looking for additional support with your writing, grab my free course on www.write-for-a-reason.com, which will help you grip your readers from the very first page of your story. Don’t put it off – today is a gift to use wisely! Only you can write your story, and if you have been called to write, someone’s waiting for it.

How to Grip Your Readers from the Start of Your Story

In these difficult days, children all over the world so badly need to hear the good news of Jesus. Every child is precious. If your story only touches one or two, wouldn’t it be worth it?

So, on to today’s writing tip:

If we want to draw readers into our story, we need a great beginning. If we can make our readers’ mouths drop open with a great opening paragraph, and if they love the first chapter, we have a good chance that we will keep them for the rest of the book!

So how do we do this? Here are some ideas:

  1. Craft your first sentence and first paragraph carefully, with the intention of gripping your readers right from the start.
  2. Giving a teaser is a great idea, to draw your readers in. For example, here’s the first sentence from Beech Bank Girls, Every Girl Has A Story by Eleanor Watkins*: “I didn’t really expect to enjoy the first day at my new school, Beechwood High, and I was right.” Immediately readers will want to know who is saying this, why, and what happened. There’s an element of intrigue.
  3. Start with action – you can reveal any ‘back story’ later. Here’s an example of a dull beginning: your main character and family sitting at table, eating dinner and discussing church. You need to start with something exciting happening.
  4. Make your first chapter full of tension and drama – bring in the conflict. In the Beech Bank Girls book mentioned above, Annie is fearful of being bullied, and we see her fears and the way this expresses itself through her experiences at her first day at school.
  5. Bring in emotion from the very word go. If you are writing a creepy story, bring in that scary atmosphere. The same goes for any emotion – excitement, sadness, tension…
  6. Introduce us to the main character/s, and let us know what they are like by the way they act or speak. Make us feel for them. Anyone who has seen bullies at work will totally identify with Annie by the end of chapter one of the Beech Bank Girls. And readers will want to know what happens to her, because they care.

I trust that is helpful! If you would like to look at great beginnings in a lot more depth, feel free to take the free online Gripping Beginnings course. This is part of the Write for a Reason Academy, but is yours free. It’s a taster to the course, but also loads of value on its own.

Gripping Beginnings’ is really great for inspiring engaging starts to stories – I thoroughly recommend this brilliant, genuinely free resource.– Fiona

Let me know how you get on!

Every blessing,

Janet

Interview with Wendy Jones

In this interview, I was interviewed by the amazing Wendy Jones (award winning writer, speaker and publisher), for her podcast: The Writing and Marketing Show.

We talk about writing and publishing for children, and give some tips on where to begin!

Exciting Message: Exciting Story

If we want to include a message in a story we are writing for children, we need to do it through the vehicle of an exciting and gripping plot. However valid and earnest our message, we will not engage our readers unless the story is thrilling too.

Some of the unsolicited manuscripts we receive at Dernier have a good moral or spiritual lesson, but the stories just aren’t exciting enough.

So if you can include heaps of adventure and danger, mystery and drama, aliens and underpants, grandmas with superpowers… you are much more likely to get your message across – and your readers will love your story!

May the Lord lead and guide you as you write.

Keep writing, because only you can write your story!

Janet

Five Things You Need to Know About Your Characters

Whether you are brand new to writing, or already well in to a story, I hope these writing tips will help you in your journey. Here’s something to set you off:

Five Things You Need to Know About Your Characters

The better we know our characters, the better we can share them with our readers. Whether you’ve already started a story, or haven’t yet begun, thinking about the following five points will help you get to know your characters better.

So get yourself a writing journal and a nice pen, and find a quiet spot to jot down some ideas for each of your characters, in each of the following categories:

  1. Physical characteristics 
  2. Temperament and personality 
  3. Back story: what has happened in the past to bring your characters to where they are now? 
  4. Current story: who do they live with? What are their hobbies? Where do they go to work/school/college? What do they love? What do they hate? 
  5. Hopes and dreams for the future. This often gives our characters motivation to act.

Write as much or as little as you like – you may not use it all in your book, but it will make sure your characters are engaging for your readers.

Hope that helps! I’ll be back soon with another writing tip… in the meantime, keep writing, because only you can write your story.

Grace and peace,

Janet

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