SCAM Alert: Kidlit Is Not Posting Hiring Notices Outside of This Website

I’ve been alerted to the very alarming fact that someone is posting jobs for “Kidlit” as “Mary Kole” on school job boards. These are writing jobs that seem attractive. I’ve heard from several people emailing to confirm whether the job posting they saw was legitimate.

Kidlit is currently only hiring for this copywriting position, and only on this website. Any job posting you find posted off of this website that claims to be connected to me or this website online is fraudulent. 

There has been an individual posing as me on university and other online job boards and providing the email address kidlit@job4u.com. It is a classic “we will send you a check, you will deduct a certain amount, and send us back a money order” scam. Their check will bounce after a few days, then your bank will hold you liable for any funds you chose to send out. The FTC explains it here.

Any kind of scam that attempts to take advantage of writers sickens me, and I take it very seriously. There are, unfortunately, many bad actors out there who prey on writers who want the chance to practice their craft and don’t know better.

If you have corresponded with this individual, please forward your interactions to me for my legal team. Do not send your personal information to this person and do not accept any money from them. Certainly don’t send any money to them. Similarly, if you have seen one of these job postings in the wild, please report them as fraudulent to the job board where they appear and alert me at mary@kidlit.com to let me know what institution is running the listing.

Unfortunately, since this is an online impersonator using my name and business name without my permission, I’m not liable for any financial loss that you suffer due to interacting with this individual. My hope in posting this is to prevent anyone from getting scammed.

Using the Rhetorical Question in Fiction Writing

I often see fiction writers use the rhetorical question in their manuscripts to ramp up tension and get readers more engaged. Or so they think. Is this a worthwhile strategy? Or is the presence of a rhetorical question in your prose just a copout? (Do you see what I did there?)

rhetorical question, rhetrocial question in writing
Don’t just ask the rhetorical question, answer it.

Rhetorical Questions Do Not Help Character

Instead of asking a bunch of questions, I’m going to give you some statements. I don’t believe questions help further character or plot. They aren’t specific. They aren’t mysterious. They are a shortcut to doing the hard work of writing your story.

Not sure what I mean by a rhetorical question when it comes to the fiction or writing craft. Here are some rhetorical question examples:

But could she be trusted?

What would happen if he let himself believe?

Would it be worthwhile for her to follow the imp down the path?

I would imagine writers believe there to be a lot of mystery in rhetorical questions, and a lot of tension. But to my trained eye, they’re much ado about nothing because they don’t communicate a lot of substance.

How Do I Get Around Rhetorical Question Use?

In my editorial work, I push clients to go further. If you know a juicy, meaty, potentially emotionally engaging question to ask in your prose—answer it instead.

This forces you to plant your character’s flag one way or the other, decide, and then move on based off of that decision. Otherwise, characters can swirl around in an endless stream of questions without ever taking a definitive stance. You will likely not get character buy-in on crucial issues, and you are much more vulnerable to the deadly sin of flip-flopping that way.

Imagine if we addressed the rhetorical question examples above more directly instead:

He wanted to trust her, but he just didn’t. Not right now. She’d have to earn it.

Believing in magic was risky. It was foolish. It went against everything he’d been taught his entire life—everything his family worked so hard to protect. Order. Logic. Reality. But here, he saw magic in front of him, as real as his own reflection. If he let himself believe, he’d have to change his entire concept of himself. For the first time, that didn’t seem so scary.

She considered whether or not to follow the imp. Sure, she could play it safe. But then she’d never know. Everyone kept saying that she needed to listen to her heart. Well, her heart was telling her to take this once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Instead of questions, we have characters declaring themselves. Weighing their options. Considering the issues in more depth. Coming to decisions.

Nothing Rhetorical About It

At the end of the day, you’re the writer. It’s your job to present the story, put the issues out there, and lead readers through the character’s decision-making process so that we get to know that character on a deeper level.

I’ve recently had a rash of manuscripts where writers are relying too much on the rhetorical question in important moments—in essence, asking the reader to create part of the story and do the character’s heavy lifting.

Instead, answer these questions where you find them in your manuscript. You’ll be rewarded in terms of depth and nuance and a better understanding of your character and story, which you can them transmit to your readers.

Struggling with asking the right questions? With answering them? Partner with me as your developmental editor, and we’ll get down to the marrow of your fiction together.

Gail Carson Levine Podcast and Giveaway!

I had the incredible pleasure of interviewing Gail Carson Levine for the Good Story Podcast. Her episode debuts today and I’d love for you to have a listen!

As part of the interview, I’m giving away my ARC copy of Gail’s latest, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, debuting on May 12th, 2020, for HarperCollins.

To win your copy, all you have to do is share this episode of the Good Story Podcast somewhere on your social media, and supply the URL for your share. (All Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts, for example, have individual post addresses that you can copy and paste into the form below.)

Feel free to use this graphic if you want to blog or post about this episode:

Gail Carson Levine

To facilitate the giveaway process, I’m linking you to a Google Form to collect your entry, including your mailing address, since this is an ARC giveaway.  Once you’re ready, you can fill it out, below. Entries are due April 22nd, 2020 at midnight, CST!

Good luck! I can’t wait to share this amazing story with one lucky winner. For more on the wonderful Gail Carson Levine, please check out her Instagram and blog.

Introducing Story Mastermind

Have you ever wanted to take a small group writing workshop intensive program in your pajama pants? Well, here’s your chance!

Those of you who know me, know I’m not the most productive person. I take my time. I don’t bite off more than I can chew. JUST KIDDING. I’m a maniac. In fact, I sell a shirt over at Good Story that says “Beast mode is the best mode,” because this happens to be my personal motto.

So, in addition to shepherding my dozens of current editorial clients (and a team of ten) through the current apocalypse, launching a digital learning resource about marketing for writers (more on that soon), and, I don’t know, actively trying not to die, I have developed a new intensive small group writing workshop program called Story Mastermind!

story mastermind, writing workshop, small group writing workshop, writing intensive, remote writing workshop

Introducing Story Mastermind

What is Story Mastermind? Well, good question. It’s a small group writing workshop that you can do from home. Originally, my dream was to throw an in-person writing intensive over the course of a long weekend. This is my favorite working style for writers conferences, and so it has always been my dream to launch my own.

The climate for in-person events has recently shifted. Drastically.

I’m no longer dreaming of an in-person opportunity, at least for now.

Besides, I think we all are learning that we can be productive at home, and it’s less hassle and expense than traveling somewhere. So I thought …

Why not change with the times and offer this type of opportunity remotely?

I also decided that I could get a lot more teaching done by expanding the scope of the writing intensive. Sure, attendees benefit from one very intense weekend of programming. But what about something that’s between a conference and an MFA program?

What if I could promise some really amazing deliverables? Well, I’d need more time with the students. But not two years, like a lot of MFA programs. What about six months?

The Structure of Story Mastermind

Here is the result of my brainstorm: a six-month writing workshop intensive.

Our initial session is launching July 1st and will run through the end of the year. Another cohort will launch January 1st.

Who is this program for? Well, three types of writer, to start:

  1. Novelists working on a new draft
  2. Novelists working on a revision of a draft
  3. Picture book writers

For the novelists, I am looking for middle grade and young adult writers only. Other masterminds (adult fiction, individual genre fiction, memoir, etc.) may become available according to demand, but for now, I’m starting in my home base of children’s fiction.

For six months, we will do small group video sessions online every other week. (There will be one month of preparation before the class starts so we can all be on the same page with one another’s writing.) These sessions will be mostly workshop driven, with some lecturing from me and one other dedicated staff member. Group sizes will be small: six writers per novel cohort, and twelve writers per picture book cohort.

At the end of our time together, the three types of writer will have:

  1. Novel Mastermind students leave with a complete and fully workshopped first manuscript draft
  2. Revision Mastermind students leave with a fully polished and workshopped final manuscript draft and a submission plan
  3. Picture Book Mastermind students will leave with six fully workshopped and polished manuscripts and a submission plan

The goal of many MFA programs is to support you in creating one manuscript, which is considered your thesis. Most programs last two years and cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars—even the remote, low-residency options.

That just doesn’t fit our contemporary world, or the lifestyles of a lot of my clients. That’s why I’m so happy to start offering Story Mastermind as an alternate solution for busy modern writers who still want workshop, who still want an industry focus, and who still want to create creative output that will help them reach their goals.

Learn More and Apply

Applications for the first session of Story Mastermind are now live. They are due by April 17th. You can read over the Story Mastermind website, dive into the FAQ, learn about pricing, and access the application here.

This is the first session and it will be a learning experience for me and my team, as well as the writers who are accepted into the program. As such, the pricing is be lower than it will ever appear again. Future sessions are going to be priced more competitively, to reflect the incredible amount of work and personal attention that this program demands.

The great news is that one or two seats per cohort are reserved for a “pay what you can” scholarship–more important now than ever.

Applications are already flooding in, and we will have a very tough admissions process on our hands behind the scenes. If you’re at all interested, please check out the Story Mastermind website to learn more.

 

Novel Outline Template

By very, very, very popular demand, here’s a PDF download of a novel outline template. You have been asking for one for years, but the closest I’ve ever written is this short article on a novel synopsis. Well, I’ve rectified that today!

You can also grab it directly via this Google Drive link. (To use the document in your own Google Drive, simply make a copy of it by going to the File menu, then to “Make a copy”. You won’t be able to edit the original because I want everyone to have this template.)

novel outline template
Fill in this template to start charting your own novel outline. It’s good stuff!

To download the PDF version of this file, please click here: Novel Outline Template

Writers want to see examples of a novel outline template because there are so many ways to achieve this. What goes into a novel outline? How do you format it? This is certainly one way to organize an outline, but there are many other writers and writing teachers who have put together comprehensive advice and their own novel outline templates. (Two of my favorites are Fool Proof Outline and Outlining Your Novel).

Start here and see where it takes you. Most of my readers know that I’ve been teaching the concept of interiority for years, and so this outline goes into character arc a lot, not just plot arc. I think it’s the best of both worlds, but would love to hear your reactions in the comments when you use it!

As a freelance editor, I do the novel outline edit all the time. Do all the hard thinking ahead of time. Kick the tires of your idea. Pressure test your plot and character arcs. I can do one or multiple rounds to make sure you have a road map for your future draft nailed down before you sit down to write. This is honestly one of my favorite services to do because we can anticipate a lot of issues ahead of time and save you so much revision heartache.

 

 

Hiring Executive Assistant!

Our admin support is graduating college and leaving the nest, so I’m looking for a dedicated, hard-working, fun, and energetic executive assistant for me as I manage clients, projects, and launch two new businesses this year. Interested in helping Mary Kole Editorial and Good Story Company thrive, and thriving with us? Read on!

Look at how much fun we’re having!

Job Skills

I run a high six-figure editorial business with a team of ten and more than 600 projects annually. I’ve developed a system that helps me give my best to all of the amazing writers who want to work with me—but I need someone to help me keep things moving.

We will train you up in all of the functions required, but it will help if you’re already comfortable with, proficient in, or at least very driven to learn:

  • Google Suite: Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms
  • HoneyBook: a mostly automated client management system that we use to move projects through the pipeline, you’ll be monitoring the calendar and inbox here, returning projects on my behalf, as well as sending some manual messages and reminders
  • Trello: a project management interface where you will set up our editorial team for success
  • Dropbox: a file management system where you will create client folders
  • MailChimp: pulling together existing content for email newsletters
  • YouTube: uploading, describing, and scheduling videos
  • Zoho: some monthly data entry into a database form
  • Social Media: Instagram and Pinterest fluency—I’m looking for a design driven person to help with the “visual” social media
  • Design: Photoshop, InDesign and Canva skills a huge bonus!

Fluent and engaging written communication skills are a must, as you’re representing a company that is for writers, by writers. Excellent accountability is my top priority. You need to be driven enough to motivate yourself and communicate about any potential problems (like missing a deadline) way ahead of time.

I don’t have the bandwidth or energy to chase an assistant around and constantly check in, nor do I want to set up that kind of overbearing dynamic. I want you to be very excited to kick butt independently!

Job Details

This is a remote position. You can work from anywhere, but for tax reasons, you will need to be based in the US and legally eligible to work. This is a contractor position, so tax withholding is not provided. You are responsible for withholding your own income taxes and reporting your earnings to the IRS.  You will receive a 1099 instead of a W2 each year.

Since we do not provide benefits like health care or a 401k, I make it a point to provide learning, growth, personal, and professional development opportunities. My marketing person is currently enrolled in about $10,000+ worth of classes. Two weeks ago, I hosted an all expense paid four-day retreat in Arizona for my entire team.

Hourly wages are based on qualifications. I am looking for a firm commitment of 10-15 hours per week. I am also looking for someone who can be dedicated to this job and this company for years. I love my team to bits. I hate making changes to my team or suddenly being left with a position to fill. If you’re committed to us, we will be 100% committed to you.

We welcome the opportunity to hear from diverse applicants!

Company Culture

I’m Mary and I have been in the publishing business for 10+ years. I started Kidlit in 2009, published my book Writing Irresistible Kidlit in 2012, founded Mary Kole Editorial in 2013, and Good Story Company in 2019.

At Mary Kole Editorial and Good Story Company, we believe in helping all writers unlock their potential. We’re also passionate about doing good. This year, I launched the Good Story Grant and gave away an award of $2,000 to one writer to enable them to make an amazing dream come true for her project, and $500 so a runner up could take a very important trip. I can’t wait to see what kind of creativity the Good Story Grant facilitates in the future!

I’m a female founder working my way up in the business world and building a company that makes a difference. My team is a fun and motivated crew of writers, creatives, nerds (said with so much love!) and more. Our work, from the editorial team to the marketing team, is highly creative. But we’re successful, too, and only working to become more so!

More than anything, I want to inspire my future executive assistant and give you the tools and firsthand experience of what it means to run an amazing independent  business. My dream for you is that you stay with me for a long time, but then maybe go on to build something yourself, using what you’ve learned!

How to Apply

Thank you so much for your interest, but this opportunity is closed. I’m leaving this page up in case anyone ever wants to learn more about GSC and what we do!

Writing the Premise of a Story Before Writing the Story

Ever thought about writing the premise of a story before writing the actual story? No? Well, put on your open-mindedness hats, guys, because it’s about to get real. (Agents hate her! Learn the one writing secret to save yourself years of frustration!) No, but seriously…

It’s a pitch. Get it? The premise of a story is also known as the pitch, but I’m not calling it that because pitching makes writers nervous.

What is the Premise of a Story?

The premise of a story is what your story is about. Simple.

Oh, you want more? Okay…

I give this talk on self-editing for fiction writers (which you can play on-demand on Udemy or wait for the free webinar) and I always start the talk very, very, very zoomed out. I ask writers about their “Mission Statement,” which is another way of talking about the premise or the “what is your story about”.

Basically, it’s a combination of your character’s main transformational experience (do characters have to change?), the story that takes them to that experience, and a sense of your theme.

For example:

A girl who is accidentally infused with moon magic must fight for the ones she loves, in a society bent on seeing her and the witch who saved her life as the enemy.

That’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. You’ll notice it’s not the whole story, but we have a sense of the character, what the character has to do (or how the character has to change), what the character is up against, and any other key characters or story elements. In this case, the witch (Xan) gets a mention, as does the society that “sacrificed” Luna to the witch when she was a baby.

What is your story about? Who is at the center? What do they have to do, or how do they have to change? What is the main conflict? (Or, if not the main conflict, a big conflict?) What is your theme?

Now, imagine that you’re not just doing this for your book after the fact…

Starting With the Premise of a Story

Let’s say that you’re actually creating the premise before you create the book. This is a smarter, more efficient way of writing. Remember, the first thing I ask of my revision students is: What’s your premise?

You’re going to have to know it eventually. But most writers don’t even start putting their premise together until long after they’ve written their story. Maybe even long after they’ve revised it.

Most writers don’t think about their premise until it’s time to pitch.

Why is this an issue? Well, you don’t want to spend five years on a novel only to realize that you may not have enough story to attract agents, publishers, or readers. (Even if you publish independently, you still have to attract readers. You still need to be able to tell them what your story’s about so that they click that all-important “Buy” button!)

What if you don’t have enough story to truly turn out a compelling, saleable project? This is why I highly recommend writing a premise (or the bones of one) for the project you’re about to start working on first.

Is there enough meat? Does it sound exciting? Or is your premise loose and vague, like, “A coming of age story about a boy who has to learn the true meaning of friendship.” I’d contest that there’s not enough meat on that bone yet. The story needs some additional layers, some specificity, some action, so that it doesn’t sound so much like a lot of other stories I’ve read.

Try It Backwards

Before you sit down to work on your next project, as you work on your current project, or before you revise a draft manuscript, stop what you’re doing immediately—do not pass GO, do not collect $200—and write out a premise.

You’re only doing it for yourself. You’re not pitching. There’s no agent hovering over your shoulder, watching you. Write out what your story is about. Is there enough? Do you have a solid premise of a story? Are you focused? Or do you need to add more layers, action, tension, and/or meaning to your work?

Catching potential issues and course correcting at this highest, most zoomed out level could literally save you years of work, and keep you from following a misguided path all the way to a disappointing conclusion.

If you haven’t tried this yet, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

What do you think of this bass-ackwards approach?

If you’re struggling to pressure test your story and see if there’s enough substance, or if you want to catch pitfalls and opportunities at the outline level, hire me as your developmental editor. Let’s get at it together!

 

Opportunity for Writers

I’m putting together a bit of a thing. Does that sound vague? It’s intentional. A secret thing for writers. (This secret thing for writers is not a sales or marketing thing, don’t worry.) Good Story Company is trying to figure out a way to give writers more to do and higher odds at success.

Right now, I’m looking to connect with writers who consider themselves to be in one of these three groups:

  • I have more ideas than time to write them. You aren’t precious about each idea that comes across your imagination. After all, there are so many! If you’re brimming with story worlds and potential projects but don’t want to do the actual sweaty craftsmanship of writing each one, reach out.
  • I’ll write anything, just give me an outline and a deadline. You aren’t precious about each word you write or each draft of a project. They’re all means to an end. Writing’s a business and you just want to get out there. You can write about anything, and write well. You just struggle with the conceptual part.
  • I got voice on top of voice but don’t know what to do with it. Everyone compliments you on your voice, but you haven’t yet made it truly sing on a project that’s gone anywhere. Maybe, with a little guidance, you can shine.

If you’re curious about this even in the slightest, let’s connect. No pressure. Nobody’s taking anything away from you. Nobody’s asking for anything for free. This is not, I repeat, any kind of sales or marketing. I’m just looking for a small group of likeminded writers because I have a vision—and I realize how woo-woo that sounds. For this super vague call-out, I’m looking for writers who think this sounds woo-woo and weird in a good way, not woo-woo and weird in a negative or suspicious way. (This opportunity, at present, is for novelists only, not picture book writers.)

Remember, I’m  your friend. I have loved the hell out of my writers for over a decade. And with one notable exception, I’ve treated you right. So go out on a limb with me here. If you’re already published or represented, especially, I want to hear from you. Nothing is being signed and no ideas are changing hands, except one that, I hope, will change the right handful of writers’ careers.

Email me: mary@goodstorycompany.com

Craft and Business Topics Poll

I’d love to have your thoughts on the topics you’re most interested in learning on this blog and in the other content I’m making. (If you haven’t yet, check out my YouTube videos about various topics!)

Please see the poll below to give me your feedback:

Middle Grade Critique: Workshop Submission #8

Thank you to our last writer of this workshop series, E.S. This is an early draft of a middle grade fantasy.

Get the creepy factor across with action, rather than telling.

The Workshop Submission

It started when the two faceless men knocked at the back door. If I’d known it was them, I would never have answered.

The potential for some solid tension here. The one thing I’d keep an eye out for, however: “I would never have answered” leaves the present moment. There’s this “If I’d only known” vibe. We go into some hazy, undefined future, from which the narrator is writing. It risks pulling the reader out of the moment to wonder, “When are we relative to the present moment?” My preference is to only use tension that’s available in the present. But since we don’t really know what’s going on in the present yet, I’ll allow it. 😉

Usually I wouldn’t have answered. I hate answering the door. It’s never anyone for me, anyway. All I want is to be left alone to mind my own business and have everyone else mind theirs.

“I wouldn’t have answered” and “I hate answering the door” are redundant. Consider this post about writing description. We get even more into the same point with the discussion of minding one’s business. This is also telling about the character, which I’d much rather avoid.

But I figured it was Mom with her arms full of groceries or something, so I answered the door. Because who else would come around the building and through the gate in the fence and past our sorry excuse for a backyard and knock on the back door? Anyone else would go to the front door. And Mom should have been home already, anyway. It was way past the time she usually gets home from work, and she hadn’t even called. She can be a real pain like that.

This is much more relevant to the present moment. I think that Mom not being home yet (tension) meets the element that it’s the back door, not the front door (tension) should be played up from the beginning, eg, “Nobody ever knocks on the back door. Only Mom comes in that way, and Mom would never knock…” Though I do love “our sorry excuse for a backyard” for voice purposes. This could be cherry-picked and used to start the novel.

So I just unlocked the back door and opened it. I expected Mom to come bustling into the kitchen, saying, “Samantha, young lady, have you finished your homework?” and puffing loose hair out of her face. But it wasn’t Mom. It was two tall, faceless men.

The difference between this opening and what the writer currently has is that this opening is in action. Samantha is expecting Mom (neutral) but it’s not Mom (tension!), it’s two faceless men (tension!!!!!!!). Give it to us in the moment. All the discussion of wanting to be left alone and blah blah blah is just telling. Give us the action instead.

Maybe they actually did have faces under all that bristly hair, but it was impossible to tell. Plus their tall furry hats were jammed down so far on their little heads that the hats would’ve covered any faces they had. Their arms and legs look like giant pipe cleaners. Creepy. And not brand new pipe cleaners either.

The rambling here (the long sentence about the tall furry hats) and the humor (though I love humor) undermine the shock or tension of the moment. Two random strangers have shown up at Samantha’s back door, and you ideally, I think, want the reader to be scared. But by making fun of their hats and faces and head shapes, you let the true fear out of the moment. Is she meant to be scared? This would be better for tension. Or is she just going to hang back and poke fun? This would be better for voice but … for the beginning, tension should be king.

That’s all they wrote! Thank you so much for joining me for this workshop series, and thank you to all the writers who have furnished your openings for potential workshop. I’m planning the next one as we speak.

If you’re struggling with your beginning, bring me on board as a novel editor and trusted writing partner.