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JH Blue Outside 2 small

JH Blue Outside 2 smallI’m going to be posting regular writing tips from authors in a new series of blogs here on Writing Classes For Kids.

I’m so happy to be able to start off the author writing tips series with Jacqueline Harvey, the popular and thoroughly nice author of both the celebrated Alice-Miranda and the Clementine Rose series.

Fans of Alice-Miranda will be thrilled to know that there’s a new book out, Alice-Miranda in Japan – and it’s full of travel, treasure and trickery in bustling Tokyo.

It’s a fabulous story with lots of mystery as Alice-Miranda takes us on another exciting adventure.

Over to you Jacqueline to tell us about the writing process.


Why I wrote this book

This is the ninth book in the Alice-Miranda series.  Alice-Miranda had lots of great adventures and I enjoy writing the books where she and her friends are at school every bit as much as the ones I’ve set in far flung locations.  Alice-Miranda has visited New York and Paris and sailed on the Royal Yacht Octavia from Barcelona to Venice.  Generally I will set a story at school then one away, so it was time for another journey.  I love travelling and often use some of my own experiences to inspire things that happen in the books.

Tips for Young Writers

  1.  Use places you’ve visited or are familiar with to inspire your own writing.  I first visited Japan in 1994, when as a young teacher I accompanied a group of Year 5 and 6 students on a school excursion. It was my first overseas trip and I fell in love with the country and the people and have been back several times since.
  2. When you travel, keep diaries and take lots of photographs.  They will help you to remember things and come in handy sometimes when you’re stuck for ideas.  I kept extensive diaries during all my visits to Japan and now I blog about all the places we go – so I share my travels with others.
  3. Research – the Internet is your friend!  Anything I wasn’t sure about with regards to the story, I researched on the Internet.  I also used Google Maps to refresh my memory about locations and routes between places.  Tokyo is an amazing city.  I remember one Saturday night being utterly dumbstruck, standing still in the middle of a traffic island in Shinjuku, watching the waves of people moving around us.  It was like Sydney on New Year’s Eve, except that this was just an ordinary Saturday night.  My opening chapter really harks back to this experience except that of course it’s not me in the story, but instead a young runaway.
  4. Seek help from experts.  I had a friend help me with the language translations as my Japanese is very limited.
  5. It’s your story – have fun with it. I write as if it’s a movie playing in my head.  I also edit as I go and read the work aloud – with the accents of the characters too.  This really helps me to get inside their heads and be part of the action.2013-10-28 12.15.06

Alice-Miranda In Japan Hi Res CoverABOUT ALICE MIRANDA IN JAPAN

Alice Miranda and her friends Millie and Jacinta are in Japan for their school holidays because the family cook, Dolly Oliver has been invited to speak at a conference.

But when Alice-Miranda is given a necklace by her father, the girls become  involved in an exciting mystery, and Alice-Miranda finds herself being followed by some pretty nasty people.

Alice-Miranda makes a new friend in Japan, but Kiko is not what he seems.

In Alice-Miranda in Japan, Alice-Miranda gets to mix with royalty when she’s invited to dinner at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.   But why is the Emperor so sad and how can Alice-Miranda help him?

This story has so many twists and turns, you’ll be wondering what’s going to happen to Alice-Miranda next.

This exciting new book in the series captures the culture and customs of Japanese living.2013-10-28 12.17.53

Alice-Miranda In Japan is available from Dymocks, QBD, Big W, K-Mart, Target, Collins, Booktopia and most independent bookshops.  The series is also available for e-readers through Amazon Kindle, Google Books, iBooks, eBooks and Kobo.

Find out more about Alice-Miranda and her other adventures at her blog

Thanks for visiting Jacqueline and thanks for the great writing tips.

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We had so many great entries in the last competition.

Unfortunately, due to the large number, we can’t provide individual feedback or post the stories online.

But to help writers, I’ve written these tips.

They are based on some of things that could have been stronger in the stories we received.

I hope you find them helpful.


Main Characters – Introduce main character and focus on them – don’t get sidetracked by other characters.

You don’t need to describe how characters look unless the way they look has something to do with the story. For example in the 101 Dalmations, the dogs were dognapped because of the way they looked.

Repeat Information - Try not to tell things and then show the same thing. For example, “The man rushed up to me angrily.”

“I’m going to get you for that.” He rushed up and shook his fist at me.

You don’t need the first line because from the man’s actions, the reader can tell that he is angry.

Another example would be something like, The teacher told us he was going to give us homework for the weekend.

“We haven’t done enough in class,” he said. “I’m going to have to give you homework to do on the weekend.”

Here again, you don’t need the first line because the second line says it all.

Get straight to the action - If someone has had an accident, you don’t need to say how your main character found out about the accident and how they travelled to the hospital to see them.

Start the story with them at the bedside of the person who has been in the accident or show them being a witness to it and responding to what’s happening.

Smooth writing between scenes – Make time transitions smooth. If something bad happened and the next scene is a few weeks, months or years later, you need to give the reader some idea of what happened to the character in that space of time.

For example, if the main character was orphaned, where are they now living?

You don’t have to give too much detail, but you need to set the scene for the reader so that they know what has changed for the character as a result of being orphaned.

Story problems – It’s good to have a lot of action and mystery, but you need to establish a story problem for your character that has to be hinted at right from the start of their story.

What does your character want or need? What problems does this want or need cause? What is stopping the character from getting what they want or need?

If you have a particular writing question, feel free to ask it in the comments section of this post

Happy writing:)


Our new competition opens tomorrow August 1. Good luck:)

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