On Sunday I attended a workshop conducted by Oisin McGann, wearing a ‘Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel’ t-shirt. It was workshop for those interested in writing for children and it was absolutely phenomonal. I remember sitting there, scribbling notes and trying to take it all in, secretly wishing it was 3 hours longer. I haven’t met anyone like that before, who was able to dispense really good solid advice. Absolutely brilliant. AND it only cost €25 too! For 3 hours of brilliance. And it ran over by 30 minutes too.

I have reams and reams of notes that I took down from it, I apologize if this doesn’t necessarily flow well. I’ll do my best to make it as cohesive as possible.

Again, like the Independent Publishing seminar, we started off talking about the Cover – this is where it all starts. If you can attract your reader by having a fantastic cover, you’ve already won half the battle. The point of the cover is to attract them, then hopefully they will turn over and read the blurb on the book, then the 1st line on the page and so on and so forth.

The 3 crucial points to any good story are the  3 P’s: 

1. People – Characters/Life/Personality

2. Place – Setting/Location for the story

3. Problem – to make it interesting. It’s a challenge for your characters to overcome

The location and the people are linked. The location in some stories is a factor the main character, it’s the geography they know extremely well, they know the backstreets and alleyways, they know where to get a pizza at 5am. The problem could be, that the characters have suddenly been dropped into a territory that they aren’t familiar eg. Kid wakes up on Mars etc.

The thing with story telling is, we want to see our characters at their most extraordinary. We want to meet the characters on their most challenged day of their lives. Think Katniss on Reaping Day in the Hunger Games. Think of any of the Harry Potters.


We want a character that we can empathise with, someone with whom reawakens feelings and makes us care for them. We want to be concerned about our protagonists should something happen to them. For plot driven books, readers don’t empathise with the main characters, instead we focus our attentions on the plot around them which is driving rapidly forward.

In order to develop a character, and to make them human, look around at the people surrounding you. Take traits from them, such as the friend who sucks her thumb and twirls her hair when she gets tired, or the friend who makes awkward situations funny and brilliant by breaking the ice with terrible jokes. Look around you and insert real life situations from the people you’ve met.

Show don’ts tell. If a secondary character is nearby, get the main character to tell the secondary characters their feelings, rather than letting the main characters thoughts take over the scene. It becomes more human.


Keep the pace of the plot going, think of it almost as if there is a film crew following your main character through the room etc. Yet keep the description and action going. Observe  in real life, look at your environment and pick up on the little things that you’ve never noticed before. The environment is a very handy tool for plot development, it affects the behaviour of the character etc. However make it grounded, so that the environment feels real to the readers. This makes it relatable for the readers. Don’t delve into an imaginary world, leaving the readers bewildered.


Pose a question….and then answer it. This is the stripped down version of how to write a story. Leave a trail of crumbs for your readers to follow by dropping hints and clues along the way.

There are 10 steps to a formulaic plot.  

1. Start off with a bang {a dramatic scene – heighten the emotions}.

2. Slow down, introduce characters and setting.

3. Establish the main problem.

4. Make a plan {Make the character involved in the action, if they stand back, they will be less involved and the story won’t be interesting}.

5. The plan goes wrong.

6. Have to improvise.

7. Will they succeed?

8. All is about to be lost!

9. They succeed! Or Fail!

10. Wrap it up. The readers should want more, but be glad that it is resolved.

And that wrapped up the workshop. Oisin then went over a little bit on cover writing, advances, the market etc. It was fantastic and I left with a big grin on my face. If you get the opportunity and want to write for children, I highly recommend any workshop he conducts in the near future.

Phew. I suppose I should get back to writing now! Make my own stamp on the YA world.