Wednesday 31 March 2021

Defining Progress #ChaBooCha

Image by by Willgard Krause from Pixabay

The Oxford English Dictionary defines progress as 

1. forward or onward movement towards a destination. (noun)
development towards an improved or more advanced condition. (noun & verb)
3. to 
move forward or onward in space or time. (verb)

As I have always believed, as long as you've even just thought more about the book you are writing, then you've made progress. Plotting your book out is also progress. There are lots of things you can do towards writing your book that constitute progress made. 

Winning this challenge by writing your desired word count and completely the manuscript's first draft of your novel is the goal of this challenge, but it shouldn't be the only thing you take away from this writing challenge. Making friends and connections with other writers, sharing ideas and getting feedback, learning more about the writing and publishing process, and finding inspiration and motivation for writing your novel are just some of the things I hope you can take away with you from this challenge.

We have made it to the last day of the Chapter Book Challenge. I want to thank everyone who has participated in this challenge (whether or not you completed your manuscript during ChaBooCha). I really appreciate your participation in this yearly writing challenge and hope to see you all again in March 2022.

Happy writing!


Prize Winners!

The winner of the mug for writers is Bonnie Kelso! Congratulations!

The winner of the copy of Writing Your Story's Theme: The Writer's Guide to Plotting Stories that Matter by K. M. Weiland is Natalie Cohn! Congratulations!

The winner of the copy of The Genre Writer's Book of Writing Prompts & Story Ideas: 540 Creative Writing Prompts in the Genres of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery & Thriller, Horror & Supernatural, and Memoir by the Mayday Writing Collective is Linda Staszak! Congratulations!

Winners please contact me at my e-mail to let me know your mailing addresses. 

Sunday 28 March 2021

Three Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a Chapter Book Series by Marcie Colleen #ChaBooCha

Image by press 👍 and ⭐ from Pixabay

It is true that chapter books are always in series. Therefore, when starting to write a chapter book it is super important to keep the long-game in mind. But how can you tell if your chapter book concept has the legs needed for multiple books? Good question.  


Here are Three Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a Chapter Book Series: 


  1. Will kids want to spend lots of time with the character(s)? Writing a series challenges you to create characters that can be plopped into many different scenarios. Think of some of your favorite chapter book characters. These characters are so well-developed that we can imagine them in pretty much any plot and they have the series to prove it! Sleep-away camp? Sure. Talent show at school? Definitely. Trouble with a best friend? No problem. Scour the titles of some popular series to see potential plots. 


Now, test your own characters. Set an alarm for 30 minutes and during that time write down as many adventures or scenarios for your main character(s) that you can think of. Once time is up, choose the four strongest ideas and write jacket copy for these strongest ideas. If you don’t have four strong ideas that can be made into possible books, consider developing your character a little more, then try this exercise again. 


  1. Is this a world that kids can relate to? Once a kid starts school they begin to develop lives that are separate from home and family. Through school, their worlds expand. They know people their families don’t. They have unique experiences from their familiesOften, chapter book series revolve around these new people and experiences. But this doesn’t mean that your series has to be contemporary realism. Just be aware of the size of a reader’s worldthe issues most important to them, and how that translates to the world you are writing into existence. I can’t tell you how many times I pitch The Super Happy Party Bears to kids and they instantly relate. Who hasn’t felt like they are living in the Grumpy Woods at one time or another when all you want to do is dance and eat doughnuts? 


Now, let’s look at the world you are writing. First, make a list of common experiences and relationships that kids ages 6-9 can relate to. Then, for each item on your list, try translating that same experience or relationship to your world. Be creative and stretch that imagination! This is a surefire way to create age-appropriate-centeredness in your chapter books regardless of how wacky your world might be. 


  1. Are there on-going conflicts, not just finite goals? This relies on knowing the difference between a book premise and the series premise. To help you better understand, let’s look at the television series CheersIf someone asked you what Cheers is about, you wouldn’t say, “it’s about a bunch of friends who get together for Thanksgiving and through the course of everything going wrong, they end up in a giant food fight.” That isn’t what Cheers is about. That is what one episode in the very long series is about. Instead, you would say, “it’s about a bar in Boston and the regulars who drink and work there.” That is the series premise. And while the giant Thanksgiving food fight is a finite conflict that starts and gets solved in one episode, there is tension and conflicts that span the series, mostly in regard to how each character relates to the others and the bar setting.  


Now, look at your series concept. How would you describe the series in a sentence or two, focusing on relationships and setting? Leave all of the finite conflicts and details (science fairs, first sleepover, food fights, etc.) to your book plots, not series premise.  


Now that you’ve tested your concept to make sure it’s got what it takes for a long series, it’s time to write. I’d love to hear if this post resonated with you or if you have anything you want to share about testing the series potential of your own concept. Share below in the comments. And SUPER HAPPY writing! 




Marcie Colleenis a former classroom teacher turned children’s book author. She’s the author of THE SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series (Macmillan/Imprint), as well as several picture books. She is a frequent presenter at conferences for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She also teaches online classes on “Crafting the Chapter Book” for The Writing BarnGo to for further information about registration for the next session which starts June 2nd. Marcie lives in San Diego, California. You can find her at or @MarcieColleen1 on Twitter. 



Today's giveaway is a copy of The Genre Writer's Book of Writing Prompts & Story Ideas: 540 Creative Writing Prompts in the Genres of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery & Thriller, Horror & Supernatural, and Memoir by the Mayday Writing Collective. If you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, the only thing you need to do to be entered into the prize drawing is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator and announced on March 31st, 2021.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Are you writing a Chapter Book or Middle Grade Novel? by Manju B. Howard #ChaBooCha

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

 Are you writing a Chapter Book or Middle Grade Novel? 
by Manju B Howard

Recently, I accepted the role of Early Reader and Chapter Book Community Lead in another online writing community called Inked VoicesWe hold book chats, discuss publishers and collectively answer member questions. One question that has popped up several times – What are some differences between writing chapter books and middle grades? 

So, I compiled these lists to show how fictional chapter books defer from middle grades 

These are general guidelines, not unbreakable rules. 


Chapter Books (CB)  

•  Target readers to 9 years old 

•  Main character (MC) is usually age 7, 8 or (or an animal) 

•  Manuscripts range from 5,000 words to 20,000 words  

•  Younger themes with less characters and subplots 

•  Black and white illustrations  

•  Action is key, faster pace 

•  Chapters are 4-6 pages and end with a hook  

•  Shorter sentences and paragraphs  

  Clear story problem in the first chapter 

  Characters are less developed 

  More dialogue than prose 

•  Story timeline is usually days or weeks 

•  Stakes are lower 


Middle Grade (MG) novel 

•  Target readers 8 to 12 years old  

•  Young MC is usually age 9, 10 or 11  

•  Older MC is usually age 12 or 13 

•  Manuscripts range from 20,000 to 60,000 words  

•  More complex plots and subplots  

•  Few or no illustrations  

•  Action and description are important, pace varies 

•  More advanced themes with longer chapters  

  Clear story problem by the end of the third chapter 

•  Character’s journey and development are key 

  More prose than dialogue 

•  Story timeline could be up to a year or more 

•  Stakes are higher 

Another way to know whether your story should be a chapter book or a middle grade novel is the main character’s voice. By reading stacks of chapter books and middle grades, you’ll develop a sense of whether your main character acts and sounds a certain age. 

At the moment, I’m writing a realistic middle grade novel. What are you writing? 



Manju holds degrees in communications, theater and marketing. She has worked as a bookseller, merchandiser, scheduler and graphic artist. With motherhood came reading picture books, which led her down a path of creating stories for young readers. Now she leads writing communities within Inked Voices, SCBWI and Kidlit Creatives. Check out Manju’s blog for interviews with authors, agents, editors and publishers.


Today's giveaway is a copy of Writing Your Story's Theme: The Writer's Guide to Plotting Stories that Matter by K. M. Weiland. If you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to enter the drawing for this prize is to leave a comment on this blog post.  The winner will be selected by a random number generator on March 31st, 2021.