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Write your own story: writing tips and editorial checklist

July 08, 2014 by Nora Nagy

In our two previous posts we have looked at ways to get started and boost your writing process. What are the major points you should pay attention to while creating your story? We have also compiled an editorial checklist so that you can make sure your text is in the best shape for your students.

Unfortunately there is no secret ingredient to add to your text to make sure it will be popular among your students, but we can give you some advice on story writing.

1 Keep your target audience in mind all through the writing process. Imagine how they would react to the plot, which characters they would be interested in.

2 What are your characters like? Be careful not to devise characters who are either completely good or bad, but create interest and discussion by making your characters multidimensional. Include both flat and round characters in your story. What defines your characters? What do they like? What do they look like? What's the relationship between them?

3 The plot should have a natural flow that holds the reader's attention. Remember that the action in a story is simply the sequence of events, but plot means that these events are arranged in a particular way.

  • The basic elements of plot sturcture are: exposition (this is where you provide background information), conflict, crisis, climax and resolution.
  • You can experiment with exciting plot structures like foreshadowing, in medias res, flashback, suspense and delay.
  • You can also offer various endings by letting your reader decide how they want to end the story.

4 Make sure you create a reliable setting for your story. You might have to do some background research to make sure you have the right details. What do people wear? What do they eat? What does the city or the countryside look like?

5 Language is a crucial question when you are writing for your students. We don't recommend you simplify your word usage too much. However, it is a good idea to stick to language structures at each grade. In Reading Matters, our Guide to Graded Readers, you will find practical advice on grading your language for readers. You can also use dialogue to make your text easier to read.

Now let's consider some editorial guidelines.

1 Punctuation: Read your text aloud to see where you need punctuation marks. Make sure you use quotation marks in dialogues.

2 Grammar: Make sure your text is coherent, and stick to the structures we recommend for each grade.

3 Spelling: You can decide to write your story either in American or British English, but make sure you don't swtich between the two.

4 Sentence length: Unless you decide to write in a particular style, your sentences should neither be too long nor short.

5 Number of pages: It is a good idea to create a book plan to see how many pages you have for each chapter and where you would like to have your illustrations.

6 Illustrations: Remember to add illustrations. You can draw or paint illustrations,  create collages, and you can also illustrate your book with photographs.

7 Style: Keep the  style consistent throughout the story. 

You might have to rewrite and edit your first draft several times, and at this stage it is a good idea to give yourself a deadline so that you don't get lost in details. It is important to read your story out loud, and read it to others, too! Ask for feedback from your friends and family and integrate their responses into your final version.

Read interviews with Helbling authors, adaptors and illustrators for more advice on writing.

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