Welcome to Qamber Kids, the #kidlit sister company of Qamber Designs & Media! While our daily focus centers around creating fun and beautiful designs for our clients, we also seek to educate you. Not to say we’ve “cracked the code” on publishing. Our company is in constant evolution as we attempt and then repeat the best bookish practices. Along our journey, we hope to share a little of what we’ve learned, be it from our team, illustrators, or authors. So stay tuned and never hesitate to reach out to us with questions. We grow best when we do it together!
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Scenario: You’ve been sitting on that one story you’ve been telling at night to your kids, or classroom. You’ve been telling your friends, or maybe yourself that you’ll “write that book someday.” Yet every time you sit down to write, you stare at the cursor… and stare some more… and ponder how to begin.
Check yes if this is you, too 😉
The truth is, we’ve all been there. Good news? We all are clueless in the beginning. But we do know some tips and tricks that may help you get started.
Okay, okay, we know you’re dreading this. Most people hear “outline” and painful memories from writing papers in school pop into their heads. Just hear us out.
Whether you’re writing a picture book, Middle-Grade or Young Adult novel, you should create a basic outline.
One of the best methods we’ve found is writing everything down on paper. Something about the human psyche works best when we write things out, though typing can work as well.
So what are you waiting for? Carpe diem! Seize the day and start making your lists. Write your story down on numbered note cards or post-it notes for every scene. Find the method that works best for you.
Don’t just focus on your story, either. Write down everything you’ve thought of, from the look of your characters, backstory, setting, etc. It doesn’t need to make total sense or look pretty. This SparkNotes version of your story is really for you.
Outlines will help you as you move forward in your story and provide the perfect reference for when you feel lost. And if you reach a block in your creative process, go back to the drawing board. You’ll be amazed how easily you can get back on track if you simply write it out.
When outlining your story, you’ll want to keep in mind your reader's expectations. No reader of MG Fantasy expects a thousand-page epic. On the flip side, you don’t write a ninety page YA novel, unless it’s a prequel novella. Know your genre.
Once you have an idea of what kind of word count your readers expect, you can begin to plan.
Stories have a certain rhythm. The easiest is the three-part system schools are so fond of. You begin with your introduction and worldbuilding, initiate your conflict and rising action. The climax comes in the second part, with your titular characters picking up the pieces and overcoming their obstacles. By the time you reach part three, you tie all (or most) loose ends together. It’s a tried and true formula.
More to the point: this is what readers expect.
Again, there we go prattling on about expectations. Simply put, if you don’t at least in part deliver what your audience expects, your book will fail. It happens to the best of us, but if you write something that does not fit the market, readers will make their opinions known—in the form of one-star reviews. True, you can’t please everyone. But at least in the beginning, the bare bones of your story should attempt to meet your audience’s needs. Later, once you’ve arrived at your second and third drafts, you can get creative and turn your genre on its head.
WORD COUNT GOALS
If you’re writing a picture book, this may not be the section for you. Stay tuned for our “making every word count” article for more on chapter and picture book tips.
To those seeking to pen Middle-Grade to Young Adult novels, welcome to the wonderful world of word counts!
There are many apps you can use these days to track how much you write each day. A couple we recommend:
Apps are great: if you use them, right? 😉
Another fantastic method our writers have employed is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it. Yep, you guessed it: a spreadsheet. Forget about apps and setting up yet another account you may or not use. We recommend creating a simple spreadsheet where you can “log” your writing time. Here’s an example from author Jennifer Silverwood:
Or, instead of making your own, you can grab a template from: Year Round Tracker Spreadsheets
Best rule of thumb: Treat it like a daily job instead of a hobby, and you’ll do better than making writing a habit. Soon it’ll be part of your daily lifestyle. There’s no pressure and lots of gains and reward to be had. But really, this is all about accountability.
Some well-known authors report their wordcounts on Twitter, or in a tracker on their blog. There are as many methods as there are types of writers. It doesn’t matter if you use the same method as Stephen King or Susan Dennard. What matters is what works for you. Try a few of our suggestions and see which helps you stay on track.
Final word: Give yourself two weeks in each method. Don’t say, “I’ll give it a try for a couple of days.” Then you only have yourself to blame. Give these tips and yourself a shot and see how far you go. 😉
one more thing
Please be advised: don’t be your worst enemy.
Keeping word count goals is a great tool, but it’s not the only way to write your book on a deadline.
Authors are notorious for being their own versions of the “tortured artist.” When we don’t meet our goals, we can turn on ourselves. While a healthy dose of reality can be helpful, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, pick yourself up and keep going. Always keep in mind, you aren’t the first to fail. Chances are this won’t be the last time you face a block or struggle in your writing. The difference between a successful author and the average jo on the street is how you choose to overcome it.
We’ve given you a few tips and tricks on where to begin penning your novel. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, it never hurts to brush up on your knowledge or practice new skills. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with a unique story concept. Write the story that means most to you. If you aren’t writing in part for yourself, you’ll burn out quickly. To keep that creative spark alive, look for inspiration in the world and people around you every day.
Having the right mindset can make or break our career. Which is also why we advise you not to go it alone. Find or create your bookish tribe and don’t be afraid to reach out. The Beatles had something right when they said we “get by with a little help from my friends.”
We hope you enjoyed this week’s Qamber Kids On Writing! Look for the next in-series, “making every word count!” for all our lovely picture and chapter book authors. We’ll see you soon!
For further reading about wordcounts and outlining see: