Write for Children Sample
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Advanced Plotting sample
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Plot Outline Exercise
Download the plot outline exercise from Advanced Plotting from my Kris Bock website
Read more free writing advice below in the center column.
In the summer of 2006, I led writing workshops in Tokyo and the Philippines. Here I am with some of my students in Tokyo.
Publishing Help For Writers and Information on Critique Services
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Chris Eboch is the author of novels, nonfiction books and magazine articles. Kirkus Reviews called her middle grade historical drama, The Well of Sacrifice, “[An] engrossing first novel.” Chris teaches Writing for Children through the Institute of Children's Literature and has given dozens of popular writing workshops around the world. She has her M.A. in Professional Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. She is a former Regional Advisor for SCBWI.
Novels: $2 per page (standard manuscript format/doublespaced) for general editorial comments (plot/character/flow/language notes). This provides a 4 to 6 page editorial letter, plus notes written on the manuscript. Minimum $100.
Picture Books up to 1200 words: $40
Email me through the quick link to the right. A sample critique letter and more recommendations are available on request.
"Your mentoring was superior, and exactly what I needed to take a writing talent and journalism background and fine tune it into something solid.... You are a phenomenal teacher/mentor." Jodi Lea Stewart, author of Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves
“Chris Eboch is a terrific editor! She is honest and insightful, and good at analyzing your plot and characterization. Her editorial skill helped me get my first novel accepted.” - Louise Spiegler, author of The Amethyst Road, The Jewel and the Key
“Your critique is so clear and concise, and easy to receive. In fact, it's as though you scratched an itch I couldn't reach. Nearly everything you said I could see, and on an intuitive level, I think I already knew. Thanks so much for your insights on those areas of my writing that need so much more work, but also for the positive feedback. I truly appreciate your critique and style of editing.” – Victoria L.
“I learned a hell of a lot with you. Your comments were always very constructive and you helped me to see the big picture, instead of losing the plot (pun intended!). I hope I can submit more work to you in the future.” - Marion T.
“I have been telling everyone I know that your editing is the best I've ever had, and I've had the opportunity to have several.” - Marik B.
“Chris provided a thoughtful, thorough critique. She helped me consider not only the little points such as sentence structure and word choice, but bigger issues like pacing and characterization.” - Jennifer B.
“Chris’ editing has helped me take my manuscript to the next level. My story is much more polished and I’m learning so much more about the craft. You can trust Chris’ professional judgment. Her prices are very reasonable, and I know her feedback is going to assist me in getting my work published.” - John M.
"Before I met Chris, I thought I was a good writer. I had already sold a book to a major publishing house. I was working on another, and everyone who read it liked it. Chris showed me where it was weak, and how to make it stronger. She's an ace at suggesting ways to improve characters and plot. Whenever I have that nagging feeling that something I've written isn't quite right, I know I can count on her to feel it, too, and to guide me into making the changes that will make it sing." - Carolyn F.
Writing a Story: Getting Started
Notes from a class with Chris Eboch
A story has four main parts:
Situation – something difficult for the main character.
Complication – the main character’s actions should make the situation worse at first.
Climax – finally, the main character must succeed or fail. This is the last chance.
Resolution – generally, the main character should resolve the situation; avoid having some other person, outside force, or luck fix the problem. The resolution may be happy or unhappy, but children's literature usually offers at least some hope for a better future. In some cases, the main character may not solve the external problem (for example, by getting an object they wanted), but may undergo an internal change (by realizing some things are more important than that object) and resolve the situation that way.
1. Start with an idea - be specific and narrowly focused, especially with short stories or articles. Focus on an individual person and situation, not a universal theme. The universal theme is brought out naturally through the specific situation.
2. To figure out where the story should go, ask yourself:
What am I trying to accomplish?
Who am I trying to reach?
Why am I writing this?
3. Know your audience – study the genre or publication to determine the necessary word length, content and style. Use the proper format.
4. What do you need? Do research as necessary to familiarize yourself with the subject or era.
5. Turn your idea into a plot.
Ask: Why is this goal important to the character? Find ways to increase the stakes. (For example, don't have a character want to win a bike just for the sake of having it. With a bike, he could get a paper route to earn money to help buy the medicine his sister needs ....) Older children can deal with more serious needs and consequences than younger children.
Ask: Why is this goal difficult for the character? Who or what is preventing success? General categories are man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. himself. (For example, if a girl can't finish her homework, it could be because her parents give her too many chores, the lights go out in a storm, or she procrastinates.)
Brainstorm. Freewrite for 10 minutes. Break, do it again.
Mull over the possibilities, perhaps for a few days
Use the character chart (available for download at left). Interview your character, asking what he or she wants and why.
Outline. Use the plot questionnaire (available for download at left). Brainstorm ways to fill in the blanks.
Set goals, with deadlines. Tell others so they can help motivate you.
Just start writing. Revise later. Write whatever scene is strong in your mind, even if you haven't reached that place in the story
Develop a routine.
Join a writing group for support and feedback.
Newbery award winner Richard Peck says, “Don’t warm up on your readers’ time.” Start in the middle of things, when the action is already going. Start with the main character and the main conflict, or a foreshadow of it.
Author David Patneaude recommends that by the end of the first scene, you have at least one of the following:
A question raised
A decision to act
Dialog that hints at a mystery
Ominous setting that hints at what’s coming
A secret revealed or promised
A weighty announcement
A sudden peril looming
A character reversal – someone does something unexpected
A plot reversal – new information twists the story in a new direction
Be Cruel to Your Characters
Notes from a workshop by Chris Eboch, The Well of Sacrifice
Character and conflict:
Start with the character’s goal. Create conflict by setting up situations which oppose a person’s needs and desires.
The conflict must be important enough, and not too easy to solve. This will vary by story length and age group.
It should take more than one attempt to solve the problem - three tries works well for shorter fiction. For longer fiction, add more attempts, or have each attempt made up of several parts.
The inciting incident - the problem that gets the story going - should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.
After the first draft, write a synopsis. Then make a scene list, describing what each scene does. Does each scene fulfill the synopsis goal? How does it advance plot or reveal character? Does each scene build and lead to the next? Are any redundant? If you cut the scene, would you lose anything? Can any secondary characters be combined or eliminated?
Increase the complications - at each step, more is at stake, there’s greater risk. If each scene has the same level of risk and consequence, the pacing is flat and the middle sags.
Up the ante – offer a better reward or more serious consequences.
A time deadline increases tension.
Give it a twist - new information that changes everything but still makes sense (such as: Darth Vader is Luke’s father).
More important and dramatic events should be written out, others can be summarized.
End with a reason for the reader to turn the page: Something dramatic and meaningful, whether exciting, funny, poignant, or sad. Don’t ramble on after the dramatic ending, and don’t end in the middle of nothing happening.
To build original plots, brainstorm 10 possible things that could happen next. Pick the least likely that still makes sense.
If you get stuck on “What happens next?” try looking from the antagonists POV. What are they doing to stop your character?
Stimulus and Response:
Every cause should have an effect, and vice versa. Remember these points (for more information, see Scene & Structure, by Jack M. Bickham):
For every stimulus you need a response, and for every response you need a stimulus.
Stimuli must be external - action or dialog that could be seen or heard, something that affects one of the 5 senses.
The response should also be external.
If the response is not obviously logical, you must explain it, usually with the responding character’s feelings or thoughts placed between the stimulus and the response. In other words, give their emotional reaction so we understand their next action.
Be sure you word things in the proper order. (“Joe heard a scream. He turned.” rather than “Joe turned, hearing a scream.”)
Consider alternating the moods of scenes - happy/sad, tense/relaxed, action/romantic interlude, good/evil, night/day.