Tag Archives: writing tools

Writing for Kids: 5 tools for success

Join SCBWI. If you don’t know what that is, it stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s the professional organization for people who write or illustrate books for children. Here’s a link to their site. They are a national organization and there are regional groups. There are two big conferences yearly (one in NY one in LA) and many regional conferences. They can help you find a critique partner. You can support and be supported by other writers. There are so many benefits to joining SCBWI I could write a whole blog post about it (but I’m not going to). The membership fee isn’t that much, for what you get back. Just do it. Join.

Write. I mean, that seems obvious, right? But it’s not. You finished your manuscript? Cool. You’re sending it to agents now? Fabulous. Perhaps your agent is sending your manuscript out to editors? Awesome. Or maybe you’re waiting for your novel to come out? Amazing. But writers write. So… write the next thing. It’s what we do. It’s just what’s next. Do it. Write the next thing.

Read. I know you have a full time job. I know you’ve got <fill in the #> kids. I understand. Really, I do. But writers need to read. Do you write picture books? You’d better be reading picture books. Like, lots of them. Are you working on a mystery? Have you read mysteries? Do you love writing for teenagers? Please tell me you’re deep into reading YAs. You think you might have a chapter book series in you? There are lots of chapter book series for you to cut your teeth on. Do it. Read, read, read.

Hang out with kids. If you’re writing for kids, you need to talk to them and listen to them. You need to hear what their concerns are and how they talk. You need to see the world through their eyes. Your writing will be better and sound more authentic if you hang out with some kids. Do it. Don’t be creepy or anything. Just find some kids and hang out.

Take a walk*. According to a recent article in Psychology Today and another in Fortune magazine, taking a walk can aid in creative thinking. Can’t figure out how to end your story? Take a walk. Fresh out of picture book ideas? Take a walk. Wondering what your main character really wants? Take a walk. Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall. Doesn’t matter. Go for a walk.

*for those physically unable to walk, take a mental break from your task at hand and go for a virtual walk.


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GUEST POST: Writing using Scrivener — how it’s done

I’ve used a variety of tools since taking up writing, but I’m going to talk about the one I’ve settled on for the majority of my work. It’s called Scrivener, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard about it if you’re a writer. Now, this isn’t an advertisement for Scrivener, and it isn’t a tool everyone will like. As a word processor, it doesn’t compare to the capabilities of Word or the free LibreOffice Writer. What it does offer is organization. This post is about how I use it to help write a novel, and it’s as much about my process as the tool I use. Everyone is different, but sometimes reading about someone else’s process can lead to useful ideas. Certainly that’s true for me.

cards (Erik)

The thing about Scrivener is that it really isn’t all that complex. All there is to it is a collection of folders and documents, and the user can do whatever he or she wishes with them. In addition, each document includes a place for a synopsis and notes as well as the document body. From user-selected folders and documents, Scrivener outputs a manuscript. One especially cool thing, is the corkboard display where virtual index cards are pinned up with the document synopsis printed on each one. I use it to see a bunch of information all at once–very useful.

Okay, here’s how I use it to organize my novel. Scrivener creates Manuscript and Research folders automatically. To these I add my folders Outline, Characters, and World.

First, I start with a pitch. As much as anything, I’m trying to sell myself on the novel, but I also get opinions from others and use them to adjust the pitch. The pitch goes into my Outline folder as I develop the final form. Next in the outline folder goes an overall synopsis. Finally, I make an index card with a short synopsis for each of my scenes, and sometimes I’ll put how the scene advances the emotional and/or overall plot in the document notes for that index card. This list of scenes really helps me stay on track.

As I create my detailed outline of scenes, I add index cards with a short synopsis for characters and places I need in the story. These go into the Characters and World folders respectively. As I’m writing, I’ll cut and paste information about characters and places from the manuscript to the document each index card represents. That way I can easily reference what I’ve already written about something.

Finally, there’s the manuscript. Scrivener creates a Manuscript folder so that’s where I write the novel. I copy my scene cards into the Manuscript folder, and I start to fill them with the actual novel. Sometimes scene cards get combined or new ones created, the novel is always flexible, but I always know what I’m working on next which keeps me writing. Notes from early beta readers or my own impressions can go into the scene’s notes so they’ll be easy to see during revision.

As I fill in the scenes, I create chapter folders in the manuscript and then move scenes into them as I see fit. When all my scenes are filled out, I’m done with the draft. It may sound absurdly methodical, but it works well for me.

So that’s how I use my primary tool for writing. What do you use?

Erik LarsonW.E. Larson is a life-time midwesterner living in the Kansas City area with his wife, daughter, son, and two dogs.  He earned a degree in physics from Trinity University along with minors in computer science and mathematics then went on to pursue a career in software engineering.  Larson has always enjoyed telling stories and decided to finally put some to paper—especially stories his kids might like.


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