Archives: author

4 Questions Beginning Writers Need to Answer

4 Questions Beginning Writers Need to Answer

The internet is great for finding opinions on writing techniques and story elements. But how often do we seize on advice without thinking about what we already know? Let’s square away a few basics before rushing off to learn more.

A Few Good Questions

1. What am I working on?

Easy enough, right? But we can get so caught up the excitement of what-could-be or what-will-be and actually forget to write.

Also, if you like straight-forward answers like I do, labels can be troublesome. Are you see-sawing on a decision to abandon a short story? Or scribbling ideas about a new adventure novel? Does that count as work?

Yes, but frankly, I always felt odd admitting it.

If you’re in a fuzzy place when describing your current work, try pinpointing exactly what creative work is going on. Maybe that’s a “duh” for most of you, but I forget it pretty easily. Just a brief moment of clarity makes a big difference in my understanding.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Discovering how your writing is different can come by listening to others. Feedback from writers or avid readers gives us insight to how we surprised them. Are you funny? A wordsmith? Clever? It’s hard to see those things for yourself, but your readers will notice.

If you’re getting feedback but the comments focus on style, then your technique may be overshadowing your voice. That was true for me. I had many suggestions about improving my tendency to underwrite a scene (specifically settings!) before my readers noticed a bent of humor in my manuscripts.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Malorie Blackman, author of Noughts and Crosses, says British children’s books are too white. “Very, very few picture books are published in [England] that feature children of colour.” Her young adult books challenge stereotypes and racism. Clearly, Ms. Blackman knows why she writes what she writes.

Trouble is, you may be thinking, I don’t have that clear-cut vision. Or perhaps you don’t see your goal (i.e, just want to pay the water bill) as noble enough.

If fixing on a purpose is difficult, imagine yourself in a conversation with a trusted friend. Daydream through your answers about why you write. Which resonates with you as authentic?

4. How does my writing process work?

I collect writing processes like my nephew collects shoes.

In fact, my favorite fantasy is imagining one day I’ll start and finish a manuscript following a perfectly linear path.

Figuring out our best work habits brings clarity and energy to our writing. But obsessing over how we ought to work zaps us and is counter-productive. Avoid getting hung up on how other writers write.

This is a major struggle for me. I feel inadequate, even stupid, because I rewrite so often and so heavily. Each time I start a new draft the voice in my head tells me real writers don’t do this.

But when I shared my fear to my writerly daughter, she told me John Green wrote 284 drafts of AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES and 192 drafts of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

So, maybe I need to rethink my attitude on rewriting.

If you’ve overloaded your brain on good advice from others, take time to remember what you already know. Let’s clear the brain fog!

P.S. By the way, these questions came to me through a fun blog hop. Back in March, my teacher writer friend Suzanne Lily, author of GOLD RUSH GIRL, included me in her blog hop. And then, last week, I got another chance to join in through my sweet friend Martha Brady, who blogs at Gritty Grace, where the grace of GOD and grit of life intersect. (Isn’t that a great tag line?) Thanks ladies!

P.S.S. If you know a child who’d like a short summer read – only 14 pages – consider THE LITERATURE CLUB PROJECT. A short story for ages 9+. Only 99 cents! : )


What Does Your Child’s Teacher Believe about Lifelong Reading?

What Does Your Child’s Teacher Believe about Lifelong Reading?

No one argues the value of reading.  For decades, research has linked reading with academic success, college graduation, and job advancement.

In fact, being an avid reader is the only extracurricular activity known to increase the likelihood of a person having a professional or managerial position by his early 30’s.

While no one disputes the benefits of reading, educators do disagree whether readers are born with a bent towards stories or if bookworms are created through instruction, modeling, and practice.

In short, is reading a trait or a skill?

Granted, this distinction sounds small – a “he says tomato, she says tomahto” dispute – but a teacher’s perspective on reading makes all the difference in how much class time she’ll devote to promoting habits that turn a child into a lifelong reader.

With this in mind, ask yourself these questions:

Does my child’s teacher allow time for in-class reading? Just as a child must practice to master any skill, the reader gets stronger with daily practice. Readers practice reading, and that means 20 minutes to an hour of reading a day.

Does my child have a classroom library? Readers need easy access to books. A child surrounded by a well-stocked library spends 60% more time reading than a child without a classroom library. Also, the chance for a child to participate in literacy-related activities more than doubles from 4 interactions to 8 ½ interactions when he is close to books.

Does my child have a choice in what he reads? When a child selects his own reading material, he becomes an engaged and empowered reader. He learns what his taste is in books and the types of stories that interest him.

Does my child’s teacher read? Does she share what she reads with her classroom? Readers need a reading community. When a child hears a teacher describing a book she enjoys, then she demonstrates to him that reading is not just for school, showing him that reading matters in the lives of the adults around him.

Did you say yes to those questions? If so, your child’s teacher likely sees reading as a skill and her classroom as a greenhouse to create the habits for lifelong readers.

If you mostly answered no, then your child’s teacher may see her class bookworms as “born readers”, preferring to stress critical reading rather than pleasure reading.

Whether your child’s teacher believes reading is a trait or a skill, you can inspire your child to develop lifelong reading habits by creating a book-rich home, allowing him to choose books that he wants to read, and encouraging him to read daily.

Then when you share what books excite – and bore – you, he will know, without a doubt, how much you believe in being a lifelong reader too.

What do you think? Are children born bookworms or can they can develop a love of reading? I’d enjoy reading what you think. Just add your comments below.

Also, if you like this article, and would like to read more it’s easy peasy to have the next one delivered right to your inbox.

Just go click the little SUBSCRIBE box in the top right corner, enter your email address, and voilà, you’re done.

I pinkie promise that I won’t give away or sell your information. (A promise I’m confident I can keep since I have no idea how to go about doing it. Nor am I interested in learning.) : )