The Den: A blog for authors of children’s and YA genre fiction

The Den: A blog for authors of children’s and YA genre fiction

Tips for writing a creepy attic or basement in middle grade or YA
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Alright, I don’t blame you. Attics (AKA lofts) and basements (AKA cellars) are obviously the scariest rooms in any house (except for maybe Regan’s bedroom in The Exorcist) which is why I’m glad I’m a Londoner and don’t have either. But their innate creepiness isn’t enough to sell your setting: you need to make readers see, feel, hear, smell, taste the room, experience the claustrophobia, sense the lurking danger.

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Start Me Up: read the first page of Tobin, Bigfoot & Me like a writer
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By now you all KNOW I’m really passionate about the importance of not just reading for authors (although yes, do read! Read lots!) but also reading analytically and with purpose: something I’ve started calling ‘rabbit hole reading’.  It’s brilliant to simply let yourself get totally immersed and enjoy a novel – that’s a really important experience for writers – but you’ll get so much more value from a story if you let yourself go down a rabbit hole when you read. Analyse the plot, the structure, the characters. Ask yourself why the author made the choices they did. Make notes. Annotate. Discuss it with other people. Even mine the acknowledgements page for the names of agents, editors and publishers involved and learn about that author’s writing and publishing process.

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May Wrap-up: A month in the life of a kidlit editor
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I just got back from a long bank holiday weekend in Devon and it was totally lovely. Not relaxing, obviously, since I have a five year old but it was super fun and just nice to be somewhere different – especially after having Covid earlier this month and not being able to leave the house. We stayed in a little cottage near the sea and spent lots of time walking, making sandcastles, doing treasure hunts, going on rollercoasters (Caeden and Steve, not me) and eating scones in the scorching sun. 

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FAQ #2: Do you offer sample edits?
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The short answer: not exactly! Sample edits are a great way for editors, particularly copyeditors, to show you their approach and way of working before you make a decision to hire them. They might offer to work on a few pages or a chapter and send it back to you to read through, and then…

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April Wrap-up: A month in the life of a kidlit editor
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Life and work April was another ridiculously busy month for me but I’m not complaining. During the easter holidays I spent a few days in a villa in Menorca with Steve, Caeden and some friends of ours and it was so wonderful. We hadn’t been out of the country since 2015, partly because we were…

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March wrap-up: A month in the life of a kidlit editor
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Life and work This month has flown by! I’ve been kept busy with a Monster Critique of a lovely graphic novel, a Plot Check-up on a really original animal fantasy and an Advanced Report on a fun YA mystery, plus I’ve booked in two exciting projects that I can’t wait to get started on. I’ve…

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FAQ #1: What does Writer and the Wolf mean?
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Hello, writerly friends! Welcome to a new series on the blog where I respond to some of my most frequently asked questions. If you have a question of your own, send it on over! So: what’s with the title of my business? Where did Writer and the Wolf come from? Well, the writer bit’s easy.…

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Exploring kidlit subgenres: Supernatural horror
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Back in 2020 I wrote a blog post called ‘A guide to middle grade and YA genres and subgenres’ and to this day it remains my most popular blog post of all time! I wrote it because I know sometimes it can be really difficult to navigate literary genres and subgenres in general but especially in the kidlit space, partly because a lot of people tend to think ‘middle grade’ and ‘YA’ are genres in their own right (they’re not – they’re audiences) and partly because the uninitiated often assume children’s books are a monolith.

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Hello! I'm Siobhán, a developmental editor of middle grade and YA genre fiction. This blog is aimed at authors who write for a young audience, particularly those working on horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery or anything with a dash of magic or macabre.

Quiz Your Protagonist!

A free email course with two weeks of surprising interview questions to get to know your middle grade or YA character

A bumper guide to middle grade & YA genres and subgenres, from cyberpunk and space opera to magical realism and portal fantasy


Here are some lovely things my gorgeous clients have said about me. When I'm having a bad day, I like to read these and eat Cadbury's Creme Eggs.

‘Absolutely delightful!’

Thank you so much! Working with you has been absolutely delightful! I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Jena Ataras | MG fantasy critique

‘One of the best editors working with emerging voices’

Like the best of editors, Siobhan will respect your own individual writing style – and work within those parameters to coax you towards ever greater clarity and impact. She has an instinctive grasp of story, and some of the best craft knowledge I’ve ever come across. As a writer herself, she understands the highs and lows of the journey and always has a listening ear. She is never one to rush, and when a script inevitably throws up a knotty issue, will ponder deeply before putting forward possible solutions. Her openness, kind heart and gentleness make her one of the best editors working with emerging voices.

Chrissy Sturt | Advanced report

Several pennies have actually dropped’

I’ve had a look through everything and wanted to thank you so much for the forensic view of my novel. It’s the first time I’ve had a developmental edit like this completed and it has been, in turn, horrifying, enlightening, surprising and confidence boosting! But I guess you’ve probably seen that before. In many respects, several pennies have actually dropped and I have a firmer idea of what I need to do and will work on more research and reading.
Maria White | MG fantasy dev edit

‘It’s already helping massively’

I want to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU for all that you’ve done for me and my book baby. It’s already helping massively. I already love all the three big suggestions you made and I’m really happy you thought it’s a book worth working on as that’s exactly what I’m planning to do 🙂

Martina O'Brien | Dev edit

I couldn’t have asked for a better editor

You’ve nailed everything and picked up on the things only an editorial expert can spot! You really have been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better editor to help with this! All of your comments have made me realise exactly what needs working on.  They are super informative, and will really lead me in the right direction. It feels so much stronger, and I’m now super excited to see it in print.
Angela Kecojevic | YA sci-fi dev edit

‘I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet’

I have just skimmed through your brilliant editorial critique and will follow your suggestions and recommended reading lists. I think you have been very good at steering me the right way. I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet. I still need you!

Akin Jabar | MG sci-fi critique

‘I’m really impressed with your critical eye’

Wow, an excellent middle grade manuscript critique! I’m really impressed with your critical eye and what you’ve picked up on here – your comments are very astute and your feedback has been very valuable, as always. I agree with almost everything! Thanks a lot for this – I can’t wait to send you another.
John Lomas-Bullivant | MG fantasy critique

‘I’ve never felt so quickly understood and supported by an editor’

Siobhan is absolutely brilliant! I’m trying not to sound too gushy but her work truly is astonishing — the best editing I have ever received. Siobhan is a master editor at every level, from word to idea. She is a consummate craftsperson and expert researcher. She is also immensely creative, able to help solve a manuscript’s problems and repair its shortcomings. She is efficient and generous, bright and fun — an absolute joy to work with. I have never felt so quickly understood and supported by an editor.

Sara Cassidy | Children's adventure critique

‘So thorough and rich with insight’

What a treat! This is exactly what I needed. Your critique seems so thorough and rich with insight. I will be sure to send you questions if I’m unsure about anything you meant but I think you’re so thorough that I will be able to digest almost everything on my own just fine. It was an absolute pleasure to work with you as well!
Chanya Sainvilus | YA sci-fi critique

‘The story has been truly seen for the first time’

I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work you have done on my edit. I am absolutely thrilled with it; the attention to detail and depth with which you went into the manuscript left me speechless. The hashtag system is so handy and the book map made so many things clear for me. I feel like the story has been truly seen for the first time. I will recommend your work without hesitation.

Aisling White | YA fantasy dev edit

‘I can’t wait to dive back into my story with greater clarity’

Wow!! This cub report is AMAZING and I need to read it like 16 more times to let it all soak in! You’ve given me such concrete suggestions! I love all of the little tips, suggestions, examples, etc that you’ve provided and I am seriously going to be re-reading this report MANY times. I can’t wait to dive back into my story with greater clarity about the pacing. I also truly appreciate the comps and MG insight! Thank you, thank you!
Jennifer Grolemund | Cub Report (Pacing)

‘I can’t believe how lucky I was to encounter you!’

Thank you so, so much for this. I actually jumped for joy when I read your first comments! I couldn’t respond immediately as I was travelling but this took away so much of the stress of the flight – I was on such a high (literally!) There’s so much to take forward. Thanks so, so much again, Siobhán; I can’t believe how lucky I was to encounter you!
Middle grade author | Cub Report

‘I will seek a developmental edit much earlier next time’

Well I have read the report and documents and ARRGHH!! But in a good way. I have to say that your comments, suggestions and advice are excellent and I don’t disagree with much if anything that you suggest. They are really helpful and will truly make this book better. Also the pointers will definitely improve my subsequent stories. I will seek a developmental edit much earlier next time as I think this would have made the whole process a quicker and much more streamlined editing process.

Jonathan Evans | YA fantasy critique

‘A breath of fresh air’

Siobhan has not only been a breath of fresh air, breathing new life into my first ever draft manuscript, but she’s also provided me with the impetus to get it finished. Her comments and feedback led me to make some hard decisions but these have resulted in a much better book. Here’s to the future!

David Rogers | MG sci-fi dev edit

I am completely blown away!

I finally had time to read through the entire Monster critique and I am completely BLOWN AWAY! Your feedback is SO helpful and SO thoughtful. You are a truly talented editor! Not everyone has your gift to provide notes that are so comprehensive, succinct, and meaningful! You’ve given me ideas, direction, and underscored the key elements for crafting MG in the horror genre. This is the best Christmas present I could’ve ever wished for and I need to read it at least a hundred more times to let it all soak in…and to percolate all of the ideas that are already flowing in my head. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to have this opportunity!
Jennifer Grolemund | The Monster

‘Your generous effort has already made the book better’

Thank you SO much for all your notes and for the honesty. I read them all and they’re extremely helpful. I’m very grateful for you taking the time. Your generous effort has already made the book better.

Chad Lutzke | YA horror beta read