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Writing Tips for Various Stages

by Tina Shepardson

Sometimes we have these wonderful ideas and are excited to shape them into a story until….we sit down in our comfy spot to begin, and the words don’t show up. Over time, I have developed some strategies that have helped me. Perhaps they can help you too.

Tip #1: One of the best ways to think like a child is to try some writing prompts for kids. I use a notebook and try a few a week. Sometimes I select familiar topics and other times I choose one that is way out of my comfort zone. I write a few paragraphs or other times the words flow with ease, so I continue writing. This helps me get into the writing zone and I find it easier to begin or continue working on a project.

While Amazon has a variety of journal books for purchase, I love finding sites that offer lists with different themes. has a list of story starters here and here and has a list of 100 prompts here.

Tip #2: We all know and listen to great podcasts that read children’s books. One of my favorites has been Julie’s Library Show. I find it so helpful to listen and analyze story structures. I take notes on the synopsis, hook, obstacles the character encounters to solve the conflict, turning point, and solution. Many times I review episode notes when I am looking for some ideas on how to work through a rough patch in a manuscript.

Another great place is There you have the visual as well as the auditory and this helps to see and hear pacing, page turns and so much more.

A photo of a notebook page:

Tip #3: Having been a teacher for so many years, I really became more visual than I care to admit sometimes. When I feel a draft is in pretty good shape, the only way to really see whether or not this is true for me is to lay it out on the floor or wall. Angela Misaac’s Sticky Note Picture Book Template is a terrific tool for doing just that. I can place my manuscript on the post-its either by writing on them or cutting my story into sections and then manipulate the spreads as I need, make changes as I read it out loud on the template. Angela offers free copies here.

Tip #4: When I taught, I rarely sat down. Now, I sit all of the time. I have learned to set a timer for 50 minutes and during that time I work wisely and without interruptions. When the timer begins, it is time to get up, walk around, pet my dogs, make more coffee but most importantly get my endorphins elevated, give my brain a break, and my stiff bones a boost!

When I am ready, usually 10 minutes, I reset the timer and continue. Prior to this, I would sit for hours and over time some of the struggles I had were because I didn’t provide myself breaks like I did with my students.

I hope some of these help you in those moments you need them the most.

Happy writing friends!

Today’s blog post prize is a critique from Tina Shepardson for one picture book manuscript or an ask me anything zoom session for 30 minutes! Please comment for a chance to win this fabulous prize!

Without realizing it, Tina started her literary career at the age of eight with paper, pencils, crayons, yarn, and a hole puncher! She loved words and the crinkling sound of turning pages. She wrote and illustrated stories, made them into booklets, and read them to younger kids in her neighborhood. This became a huge door opener into babysitting and teaching. An award-winning teacher for 33 years, Tina was privileged to share her love of books with many students. She is the author of Walkout, a picture book, with Clear Fork Publishing (2020). Forthcoming is Canines Unleashed, a middle grade book with CFP (2024), and The Sorry Seeds, a picture book, with Gnome Road Publishing (2024). She is an active member of 12×12, a volunteer with SCBWI’s West/Central Upstate Region, a Rate Your Story judge, and a Book Buddy volunteer in the Syracuse City School District. When Tina, a winter enthusiast, isn’t writing, she enjoys Upstate New York and the Catskills with her husband, daughter, and two Akitas, one snowstorm at a time.

Connect with Tina and learn more about her at:


Twitter: @ShepardsonTina

Instagram: @hank_madeleine_ollie

Facebook: @TinaShepardson

LinkedIn: @TinaShepardson


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