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6 Reasons Being a Pirate is Like Being a Writer

Categories: Children's Writing, Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, Picture Book Agents, What's New.

Here are 6 things I learned from a pirate about writing.  It turns out pirates and writers need the same things in their arsenal. Every pirate (and writer) needs:

1. A hook: Hooks grab the reader in the first few sentences or can be found at the end of a chapter to keep the pages turning. EXAMPLE: “Captain Hook stood on the edge of the plank. Below swam a wide-mouthed crocodile chomp-chomp-chomping at the air between Captain Hook and the sloshing sea…”

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)




Guest column by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton, author of the 2012
picture book PIRATES DON’T SAY PLEASE! (Pelican, illustrated
by Adrian Tans), the story of a young boy who goes on an imaginary
adventure with pirates. Laurie was born in Cleveland and has authored
more than 40 books, including the best-selling children’s book,
Why Cowboys Sleep with Their Boots On,
won the Premier
Print Award from Eastman Kodak. An international speaker,

Knowlton loves kicking back on her ranch, Roots ’n Wings.

2. An anchor: A ship is afloat without an anchor. Your anchor is the story question. The story question keeps your writing focused. Will Hook make it out alive?

3. Navigation tools: A pirate needs to know how to navigate the genre. Know your story structure.  A play structure is going to be entirely different from a picture book structure. But each will have:

  • A well developed main character
  • A setting full of sensorial language, (Why use lily-livered language when you can write like a salty pirate?)
  • A story question that includes several attempts at a solution
  • A story answer that involves a physical and an emotional ending.

(See a list of picture book agents.)

4. A plank: Every story must reach the point where the main character’s toes are hanging over the edge of the plank with nowhere left to go. This climax should have your reader feeling that sorry bloke’s anxiety. Tic, Tic, Tic!

5. A cutlass: A pirate has to be willing to use his cutlass. Once your story is written cut, cut, cut, down to the briny bones of a swashbuckling seafaring story.

6. A treasure: When your reader closes the book make sure he leaves with a treasure he will want to come back to again and again.



Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:



Writing a novel for children? Literary agent
Mary Kole, who runs the popular KidLit.com
website, has a new guide out for writers of
young adult and middle grade. Pick up a copy
of Writing Irresistible Kidlit and get your
children’s book published.

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6 Responses to 6 Reasons Being a Pirate is Like Being a Writer

  1. OnAJunket says:

    I can smell the sea-salt of that sac you call a skull. Argh. Good job matey. Batten down de hatches! We go sailin’ in dis mess of a weather!

  2. esparhawk says:

    Chuck, I’ve heard you speak at the PNWA writer’s conference. Just an FYI, if you could extend this theme, it would make a great speech for your next appearance at PNWA. I’d sign up, and you may lay to that, matey!

  3. vrundell says:

    Arg! ‘Twas plainly-spoken pearls, was what it twas, mate! So buying this book for my little guy!

  4. Lisa Lickel says:

    This is such a perfect analogy, Laurie. I was showing my mentee yesterday how to find a hook. The plank is perfect! Thank you.

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