The Doctor is IN

Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not

CCCC – The Business of Writing for Children


In my disillusioned imaginings, I’m a great planner and a great plotter. In reality, I split the difference at about 70% flying by the seat of my pants and 30% planning. Mostly. The best thing about being a writer is that there is no one correct way to approach your writing. Whether you follow the Snowflake Method, the three-act structure or storyboarding, find something that works for you. In working on better learning the business of publishing (in this case, any genre), we discussed the difference in premise, story, plot, hook, and theme.

Discussion: What Makes a Good Story (and why)

Last week’s homework assignment was to bring a couple of your favorite children’s books. Here’s what we discussed:

Theme, premise and plot work together to tell a great story:

  • Theme: what the novel is about.
  • Premise: the starting place (also called a hook).
  • Plot: how the characters change along the way.

Identifying the Three O’s can help you find potential holes in your plot and address them.

  • Objective: what does the character need to do?
  • Obstacles: what is stopping the character from success?
  • Outcome: what happens when the character finishes?

Remember: write with a purpose, because your readers will read with a purpose. Also, if you’re having trouble identifying concepts like plot, theme and conflicts in your own work, chances are your readers (including agents, editors, publishers) will, too.

Tonight’s References


What a fun inaugural class! I think we’re going to have a great semester. To kick it off, we looked at the basics of children’s literature, including: Audience, Page and Word Count, and Genre.

Now that you’ve got an idea, how exactly do you begin? The blank page before you can be overwhelming. We discussed some ways to move beyond the blank page, including writing exercises to get the ball rolling creatively. Other ways to combat writer’s block: find inspiration in everyday life; take a walk; mine your memories; start a journal; take up tennis. Change your setting and focus your attention on something mindless for a few minutes, and then try again.

Figurative language is a great literary device to include in all children’s literature. Metaphor and simile are the most commonly used, but remember the other fun ones: onomatopoeia, personification, oxymoron, paradox, allusion, idiom, pun, and (my favorite) hyperbole. Smart wordsmithing can take a good manuscript and turn it into a dazzling story. Figurative language can also offer an economical way of getting an image or important point across.

Be sure to check out the SCBWI. They offer a great support network, and informative conferences.

Tonight’s References

Semester Resources


Writing for children might represent a fantastic journey for you, but never forget that publishing is a business. The more you can learn about the industry, the better you can navigate your way to life as a published author. Knowledge is empowering.

During this seven-week course at CCCC, students will develop and begin writing a manuscript for a children’s book during our classwork workshop periods. Additionally, we discuss the business of writing for children, including how to identify publishers, how to write a query and synopsis, and how to market your work.

The Business of Writing for Children is offered as part of CCCC’s Creative Writing Program