We’ve been talking about some of the top 10 ways to lose an editor, based on interviews I conducted with editors at four Christian children’s publications. (Part I: SKIP THIS STEP, Part II: HOW TO MESS UP YOUR CHARACTERS) In this section we are going to cover four more ways to lose an editor through your content.
Way 4: Overstuff Your Story
Take extra time to “overstuff” your story so that it’s difficult to follow. The more words you take to describe anything and everything, the faster the editor (or any reader) will find themselves lost. Successful freelancers stay focused.
Editor Courtney Lasater of Keys for Kids cautioned writers not to “make your children’s devotional story too complicated. Keep things simple when it comes to characters and background information, spiritual illustrations, and the overall lesson/message.”
Way 5: Talk Down to Your Audience
Another great way to lose an editor is to “talk down” to your readers.
Editor Kandi Zeller with Untouched reminded writers to make sure their devotional pieces don’t sound condescending toward the reader. She noted that their publication “often receives submissions that have good messages but … come off as cheesy … or finger-wagging.”
“Remember how Jesus approached the people He was teaching,” she said, “with good stories, deep truth, lots of grace, and good questions.”
Way 6: Pad the Prequel
Another common mistake writers make is providing too much information before getting to the actual story.
Senior Associate Editor Stephen O’Rear of Clubhouse encouraged freelancers. “Don’t sell me the prequel,” he said. “I want the most interesting chapter in your characters’ lives, which is rarely the moment they meet.” He challenged writers to begin with already-existing relationships, “then give me scenes, jokes or gestures that inform the characters’ past.”
Way 7: Avoid Conflict
When it comes to crafting good content, O’Rear also challenged writers to create conflict in their stories.
“Fiction needs stakes,” O’ Rear said. Every major character should want something and take logical steps to attain it. That doesn’t mean the story has to end with ‘good’ kids winning and ‘bad’ kids losing; we learn from the pursuit.”
O’Rear recalled a story he received about a family preparing for hurricane season. “Fifty words in, I was already picturing the artwork,” he said. He waited for the action, or conflict, or “anything to propel the story.” But it never came. “I wanted to like it so badly, but it was a body with no muscles.”
To help overcome some of these content obstacles, study stories and devotions from these publications and others. Pay close attention to how they focus their story, escalate the conflict and bring it together in the end, while using tightly-knit sentences. These stories are entertaining, engaging, and written with that publication’s specific audience in mind.
But remember, if you want to lose an editor, ignore these rules about how to create good content!
Stay Tuned for the FINALE: “Part 4: Believe You Are Perfect”
Cindy works as marketing manager and brand storyteller for Child and Parent Services, a nonprofit child abuse prevention organization. She has written more than 525 articles for publication and a handful of book excerpts. Her published portfolio includes children’s stories, kids’ activities, profiles, how-to, humor, and human interest. Cindy’s website here.