Friday 31 March 2017

Final Day of ChaBooCha and Winner Announcements #ChaBooCha

Today is the last day of the Chapter Book Challenge. We've all done our best to create stories full of new worlds, new characters and magic for children to immerse themselves in.

Technically, to win the challenge, you had to write a new book, beginning to end, during the month of March. But "winning" is an interesting word. You might not have won, technically, but did you write more this month than you would have? Did you gain a better understanding of your story? Did you do some research that you needed for your story? If your story is further along now than it was at the beginning of the month, then you've come out ahead.

And just a quick note here: Don't ever ask yourself if you're a "real writer." If you write, then you are a writer.

There are several posts from previous challenges that can help you with more technical aspects of your story and, important at this time, with editing your manuscript and even marketing your book. To help you access these posts more easily, I am sharing the links below.

Tips for Building your Author Street Team by SASS

Seven Editing Tips by Miranda Kate

Marketing Madness - but It Doesn't Have to Be by Jackie Castle

Do It Yourself Publicity by Harold Underdown

The Ten R's of Revision by Lee Wardlaw

Editing Your First Draft by Tamora Pierce

Crafting Appealing Cover Art by Julia Stilchen

Your Query is Not a Blurb: Query Tips from a Freelance Editor by Victoria Boulton

Editing Your First draft by Radhika Meganathan

On Editing by Karen Pokras Toz

On Writing Badly and Redefining Failure by Becca Puglisi

Ten Things to Remember When Submitting your Work to an Agent by Carole Blake

Series Writing 101 by Emma Walton Hamilton

How to Reach Kidlit Readers: Hone in on Power and Control by Angela Ackerman

The Education Market and Chapter Books by George Ivanoff

Happily Ever-Afters: What Makes a Satisfying Chapter Book Ending by Lee Wardlaw

How to Successfully Use Crowdfunding for your Book Project by Margo and Emma Gibbs

Talent vs. Learning: Do You Have to Be Born a Writer? by K.M. Weiland

Perfection Isn't Necessary: Why Your Story Needs to Be Published by Rebecca Fyfe

School Visits by Y.I. Lee

Magical Realism: Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary by Kimberley Griffiths Little

I have to admit that some of the promised guest posts this month never materialised. It happens. For some, it was my fault for not chasing things up (or having an overly full e-mail inbox in which some guest posts were accidentally deleted), and for others, life got in the way. We're all human. The guest posts that did not materialise for this challenge will be stored and used in a future challenge though, so you will still be able to soak up the wisdom those authors have to impart.

And now on to the part of this post that I know you are all waiting for: PRIZES!

And the winners are:

Winner of the charm book mark: Melissa Gijsbers

Winner of the book "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card: Kristi Veitenheimer

Winner of Rory's Story Cubes: Anita Banks 

Winner of the critique of the first two chapters of a chapter book manuscript by Melissa Stoller: Brenda Harris

Winner of Melissa Stoller's soon-to-be released chapter book, "The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island": Rebecca Koehn

Winner of the book "The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics": Mary Preston

Winner of the critique on the first five chapters of a chapter book by Alayne Kay Christian: saputnam

Winner of the book "Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel" by K.L. Going: Ashley (Willoughby)

Winner of the Kindle Fire: Jerra 

All of the winners need to get in touch with me within the next two weeks to let me know your mailing address for your prizes or your prize will be forfeited. (And a little warning here: I am excessively slow in getting the prizes out to people, but they WILL arrive eventually.)


On another note, if you'd like to donate to the Chapter Book Challenge, there is a "donate" button on the right hand side of this blog. Alternatively, you can buy ChaBooCha merchandise from my on-line shop from the Chapter Book Challenge section of the store and proceeds will go towards ChaBooCha. (More designs will be added soon!) You can also buy one of the Chapter Book Challenge's Teapot Tales anthologies (written by members of ChaBooCha), proceeds from which go towards the challenge. A new one will be coming out in April.


If you feel as though you want to continue writing more of your story or would like to keep your momentum going, or maybe you now want to write something not aimed at children, consider joining the much less official Blog Your Book in 30 Days challenge which begins on April 1st. The posts are less frequent, mostly written by me, and there are a few prizes involved. But it's still fun. Deadlines can be very helpful in pushing us not to procrastinate when it comes to our writing.

Monday 27 March 2017

Is it YA, or is it NA? by A. D. Trosper #ChaBooCha

Is it YA, or is it NA?
I love the YA and NA genres. For those that don’t know, YA = Young Adult. NA = New Adult. NA is a fairly new genre and there are a lot of places where the two overlap. And this was something I struggled with for my newest book. The main genre is Paranormal Romance. When it came to a secondary though, which one was it? It seemed to walk the line between NA and YA, kind of a cross over. I began marketing it as a YA title. But, after a few comments, I started researching, because I admit to being a tad confused as to exactly what separated the two genres.
I used to think it was sex. But nope, because YA (particularly those with characters in the 17+ age range) can have sex in them. Admittedly, it’s usually sex that fades to black and happens behind closed doors. There is nothing overly descriptive or explicit about it. But, NA doesn’t have to have explicit scenes in it either. It can be just as sweet and clean as YA if it wants.
Was it violence? Nope, plenty of violence can happen in YA. Especially in the Paranormal Romance genre which usually involves any manner of superhuman type characters. For YA it’s again, maybe not as descriptive.
Was it foul language? Nope. Surprisingly, YA has foul language. Or maybe not surprising to anyone who has heard teenagers speak when there are no parents around. Perhaps some of the harsher curse words are avoided or used extremely sparingly, but otherwise swearing does happen in YA.
Was it certain activities? Nope. Drug use, alcohol drinking, smoking, etc. all pop up in YA. Perhaps because these are all things young adults actually have to confront, the things they try, the things they want to stay away from. Either way, those are all issues in the lives of young adults, so it makes sense for the characters in young adult books to have to confront these issues.
Age? Kind of. YA characters usually fall between the ages of 15 and 19. NA characters between the ages of 18 and 26. But, there is an overlap in the ages, you say. Yes there is. It’s another area where the two bleed together.
So then, if any of these can be in both YA and NA, when does one become the other?
It boils down to where the characters are in their lives. In YA books, the characters (or at least the main one) is still dealing with high school problems. Still living at home. Still under the watchful eye of a parent. They still have homework to finish, a room to keep clean, parents to sneak around on, and they are still experiencing a lot of firsts (though firsts is another area where the two genres can blend into each other). They are facing bullies at school, and trying to save the world (or maybe just their part of it), while trying to study for that trig test because if they fail it their parents are going to kill them. Sex and violence can be there, but are generally muted.
NA books deal with characters (including the main) who aren’t at home anymore. Or if they are, they don’t live there full time. They are in college, they are living on their own, they are making their own decisions, they are finding out who they are and where they are going. They don’t have to ask permission to go on a date. There is no watchful parent hovering just out of the room when the love interest is visiting. No need for sneaking in or out windows. With NA, the story can have explicit sex scenes that can be as detailed as the author wants them to be. The violence can be as bloody and gory as the author wants as well.
After struggling with where to put my Raven Daughter series, I finally decided it fits better in the NA category. Jo (my main character) is nineteen, but she doesn’t live at home anymore. She shares an apartment with a friend. And in the beginning of the book, when she is still at home, her mother has been so ill for so long that Jo and her sister have been paying the bills, cleaning the house, and preparing meals. She has a job…or maybe it’s a calling, and how she spends her free time is entirely up to her. She does have a guide, but he is only there to assist her in training in her new powers, and to offer advice when it’s asked for. And when she starts falling for bad boy Caius, and her guide tries to warn her of the implications of such a relationship, she has no problem telling her guide where to stick it and there isn’t anything he can do about it. The violence isn’t overly muted, and where there is no sex in the first book, there is in the second and the scenes aren’t all fade to black or behind closed doors, though they also aren’t extremely explicit.
It was after this that I realized my other YA books weren’t YA either. They were NA. None of my characters in my Bound series are in high school. None of them answer to parents. All of them make whatever decisions they want whether it’s moving in with a guy, or taking off cross country with a guy, without ever asking for parental permission. The main characters in those books may be 19, but they definitely fall into the New Adult category.

Writing about characters in their late teens? confused as to whether or not your book is Ya or NA? Now you know.
A.D. Trosper is a writer, mother, and ruler of the world inside her head. Audra lives on the plains of west central Kansas with her husband and three children. They raise a large vegetable garden every year, spoil their dairy goats, and keep chickens. In between canning, cooking, and animal care, she loves to game with her kids and explore the fictional worlds and people that take up space in her head.  You can find out more about her at:


Today's give-away is a copy of Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel by K.L. Going. All you need to do to enter the drawing, if you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be drawn by a  random number generator on March 31st.

Saturday 25 March 2017

How Writing a Chapter Book is Like Writing a Picture Book by Alayne Kay Christian #ChaBooCha


Becky initially asked me to write a post about “How I got my chapter book contract.” Her request came around the same time that I published a similar story on my blog. You can read that post here. Instead of repeating myself, I’ve decided to share some chapter book knowledge that I picked up in the process of turning my picture book into a chapter book.

A small survey in the Chapter BookChallenge Facebook group proved to me that many members write both picture books and chapter books. This post will focus on the question, how is writing a chapter book a little like writing a picture book? It may not be helpful to those who have been writing chapter books for a long time, but it should be helpful to those who are just getting into chapter book writing.

As with picture books, there is no perfect formula for writing chapter books. However, there are great guidelines. So, what I offer is meant to give you a sense of direction and order when writing. It is not intended to say this is the ONLY way to go. This post only touches on some basic elements of chapter book writing.


In chapter books (and usually in picture books) action is important for keeping the young reader engaged. Like picture books, chapter books don’t have a lot of description. Unlike picture books, illustrations do not help tell part of the story. So, it is important to show and not tell. Show your characters in action. Show your characters reacting to their situation. And of course show their environment. But don’t get carried away with long descriptive passages. If you do, your young reader will lose interest.

Just to be clear. . . .

There are some illustrations (usually line art) in chapter books, which help the young reader to visualize better. There are a variety of chapter books for beginning chapter book readers that have many illustrations – often colored. Some examples are Marcie Colleen’s Super Happy Party Bears series, Kate DiCamillo’s Bink and Gollie, and Mercy Watson also by Kate DiCamillo. This post focuses on longer chapter books for younger readers. Also, I want to be clear that middle grade books have more description than chapter books.


I see writing chapter books as being similar to writing a number of individual picture books related to one big story goal.

So, each chapter has its own beginning, middle, and end that are all centered around that specific chapter’s goal. However, the chapter goal needs to relate to the big goal in some way. Everything that happens in the story should have a strong thread running between the problem or goal established in the beginning and the resolution presented in the end.

Like picture book beginnings, the individual chapter beginning usually establishes the problem or goal for that chapter. It might establish the setting, if it has changed from the last chapter. It most likely establishes the obstacle to achieving the chapter goal. The beginning of a chapter will sometimes subtly reconnect the reader to what happened in the previous chapter.

Just like the middle of a picture book, the middle of the individual chapter shows the protagonist’s attempts to overcome his obstacles. And as with a picture book plot, the chapter story tension escalates and sometimes falls. It may or may not fall, depending on where the author has chosen to leave the reader hanging. 

Unlike picture book endings, individual chapter endings are not usually satisfying endings because you want to entice your reader to look forward to the next chapter. However, you do want to give your reader a sense of satisfaction with each chapter while still keeping her in suspense.  The ending of the chapter often comes in the middle of a scene. Doing this creates questions in the reader’s mind that she will want to see answered. Just as picture books often end with a twist, individual chapters might end with a twist. This engages the reader further.


The combined chapters work to form the story or character arc related to the big story problem or goal.


Like the first page(s) in a picture book, the first chapter hooks the reader by presenting the inciting incident. This is the event that pushes your protagonist out of his ordinary world into the challenging world that the story builds. It also provides the setting, time period, and the voice and tone of the story. Naturally, it introduces the protagonist and maybe some other characters. Backstory is avoided or limited in chapter books for young readers.


The next chapters set the hook by deepening the reader’s understanding of the character’s situation.  They also introduce more characters.


Like the middle scenes of a picture book, the middle chapters show the protagonist’s attempts to solve his problem or achieve his goal. They offer unexpected turns, surprise setbacks, and changes that often require the protagonist to make a decision or choice. With each challenge and decision, the reader becomes more emotionally connected to the protagonist and the story and therefore become more hooked.


With each new chapter the tension rises and the stakes get higher until the protagonist reaches his DARKEST MOMENT. This is where he and the reader experience a period of defeat. This makes the reader want to keep reading while hoping for the best.


The darkest moment is followed by the INNER CLIMAX. The protagonist has some sort of lightbulb moment that causes him to think outside the box. There is usually a perceived or real risk in making the choice that raises the tension. This new thinking, or choice, or decision moves the story forward to the outer climax where the protagonist takes action on his new way of thinking. All the while, the reader is taking this emotional rollercoaster ride with the protagonist.


The OUTER CLIMAX follows the inner climax. This is where the protagonist takes action based on the inner climax decision or choice. Sometimes the inner climax is not apparent or nearly undetectable. But there is always a climax. This is the turning point that leads the protagonist to the resolution of the story.


The RESOLUTION/CONCLUSION of the story presents a new perspective for the protagonist. The reader becomes aware of some sort of change or personal growth in the protagonist. All loose ends are tied up here. The reader should be left thinking about the story and maybe about how he relates, but he should not be wondering about missing elements that should have been resolved in the end. Often there is a surprise twist. Sometimes, the protagonist does not get what he set out to get, but he still learns and grows in some way.


A while back, I wrote a blog post on episodic stories. You can read it here. I wrote it for picture books, but it applies to chapter books as well. When you read the word “scene” in the post, think in terms of scenes within each chapter, but also consider each chapter as a scene. What I want you to see is that all scenes and all chapters need to be connected. I can’t really get into cause and effect in this post, but if you aren’t clear regarding what that is, do some searches and read up on it.

Before I teach an entire course on chapter book writing, I will end this . . . well, sort of. I want to offer a PDF with a basic analysis that I did on THE TALENTED CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker. It breaks the story down as related to the tips I’ve shared in this post. I think it gives a very clear idea of how each chapter tells a story of its own, which is why I see them as being similar to picture books. It also gives a clear picture of how everything that happens in the story is connected to the problem established in the beginning and the resolution presented in the end.

Happy chapter book writing!


Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author and a certified life coach. Her picture book Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa (Blue Whale Press, LLC) received the Mom’s Choice Awards gold medal and an IPPY Awards silver medal. Alayne’s Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series launches in April 2017 with the first book, Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Trying to Make it Rain (Clear Fork Publishing).  Her picture book Mischievous Maverick is scheduled to be released by Clear Fork Publishing in early 2018. Alayne is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course, Art of Arc: How to Writeand Analyze Picture Book Manuscripts. In 2016, Alayne and her husband sold their home in the Dallas, Texas area and became nomads as full-time RVers and part-time sailors.



Alayne has generously offered the prize for today's give-away. She is offering one person a critique on the first five chapters of their chapter book. Only signed-up members of the challenge qualify for the drawing. In order to be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this post. A winner will be drawn by a random number generator on March 31st.