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Punctuation – A Writer’s Magic Wand

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.35.12 PM

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.29.04 PMPunctuation can do amazing things for your story.

In fact, punctuation tools are a writer’s friend, a writer’s magic wand.

Punctuation helps create the mood or tone of our stories. It helps us get the response we want to what we have written. It allows us to control the way a reader thinks and reacts to our work.

Punctuation is not just about rules. It’s there to help the reader know how to read what we have written. It helps them immerse themselves in the experience of our story.

Here’s how:

  1. Full stops tell the reader when to pause.
  2. Exclamation marks tell them when to pay attention!
  3. Paragraph breaks make a reader stop and think about what they have just read. This helps them absorb and recall important information.
  4. Talking marks help the reader know exactly who is speaking. So it helps them get to know people they are reading about, and understand their place in the story.
  5. Our sentence breaks help create the mood of the story. For example, short, sharp sentences create tension, but long lyrical ones can help us picture a setting.


Long sentences create atmosphere

After an hour or so, the rocky ridges and snow-covered cliffs gave way to thick forests so deep that there was no sunlight except for narrow stems of gold that filtered between the rows of tall trees. *

Short sentences create tension

Everything happened in a split second. Austin didn’t have time to react. He barely had enough time to realise that the cougar was flying towards him.

Talking marks and line breaks make it clear who’s talking

“You saved that man’s life.”
The boy stopped running. “Henry, his name’s Henry.”
“You saved Henry’s life.”
The boy shrugged. “We take care of each other.”
The man took the boy’s arm gently, as if to stop him running off again.
“I know somebody who can help you,”
The boy felt a spark of hope. He didn’t know how they would survive the Paris winter. *

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.35.12 PMPunctuation tips

  1. Read your work out loud and listen to where you pause. When you pause for breath, that’s where you need a comma or full stop. Or get someone else to read your story for you and listen to where they pause.
  2. Every time a different character talks or does an action, start a new line with this new speech or action.
  3. Break your work up into paragraphs. This makes it easier to read and helps the reader to stop and think about the piece of text they have just read, and pay attention to important information.can

If you want to be a writer, remember that punctuation is your magic wand, and can turn your work from something good into something great!

Happy writing :)


* Writing passages used in this post are excerpts from my new book, K9 Heroes, to be released by Scholastic Australia in August 2017.


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Competition for Writers and/or Illustrators aged 8-18


14138245_10154504334576170_8019781769149308191_o2017 CYA Competition


The 2017 competition dates are:

Opens: 09th January 2017

Closes: 30th April 2017 – Last email by 24H00 – (Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +10 hours.) No late entries will be accepted.

Short listed awards will be notified by 20th June 2017.

Winners will be announced at the CYA Conference held on 1st July 2017.  Prizes will be mailed if winners are unable to attend the conference.



  • All writers/illustrators who are 8 – 18 years old (as at 30th April 2017) worldwide, who have not been published in book format within the CYA genres.
  • All entries must have a parent or guardians electronic signature of permission on the entry form.
  • Contest entry may not be contracted or published in any form when entered.

How to submit entries

All entries are lodged electronically. Illustrations, graphic novels and illustrated picture book entries to use mail address below.

  1. Make sure you have read the Category requirements (AspiringHatchling or Published), Preparing Your Entry and Checklist sections before submitting your entry.
  2. All entries electronically submitted. Includes payment via PayPal/credit card only. No cash or cheques.
  3. Illustrations ONLY sent to: CYA Conference, P.O. Box 275, Bribie Island, Queensland, 4507, Australia.
  4. All entries will be automatically acknowledged by email on receipt to the primary email address specified in the entry. Invoices are emailed out at the time of payment being completed.
  5. Paper copies (illustrations only) must be received by 27th June 2017.


Since 2007 everyone has received their score sheets back, to give some feedback and to help improve their entries for the next competition they choose to enter, or submissions to publishing houses.

These will be returned no earlier than 31st August. CYA will announce the date that the sheets are sent out via our newsletter and social media.

Category Consolidation

As has been done in previous years – If there are not enough entries into a single section, the section will be consolidated with another similar category in this competition.

This will be done at the organisers discretion.


Judges decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

If you shortlist, your entry goes in front of a professional editor.

ALL illustrations go in front of a professional editor.

Other important info

  • Do not identify yourself on the contest entry.
  • All results will be published on the CYA Conference web site.
  • Each written entry must be original work, unpublished nor accepted elsewhere for publication or broadcast.
  • Each illustration entry must be original work, but photocopied or computer printout only, unpublished nor accepted elsewhere for publication or exhibition.
  • All writing entries will be destroyed after the competition, and the electronic files deleted.
  • Illustrations will be displayed on the CYA web site and physical copies may be retained to display at future conferences.
  • Illustrations are not returned.

Special Note from co-ordinators

This competition is designed to help authors and illustrators get ready for the submission process to publishing companies. So send in your best effort, checked for spelling errors and edited. Make sure your entry follows the guide lines (print just as a publishing house has guidelines), do everything in your power to make that entry arrive in a neat condition — appearances count!


If you have any questions you can contact us on: info@cyaconference.com


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