Check out this video made by a school after one of my interactive presentations about revision. After creating a rough draft, I asked students to revise for word choice, dialogue, details, plot, character development, setting, etc. The improvisation was so funny and full of great examples of living writing.
Read Jessica Goldstein’s engaging interview with Judith Viorst in the Sept 1 issue of The Washington Post. Here are my favorite excerpts:
“‘I am obnoxiously disciplined,’ said Viorst… Viorst gives herself quotas. She polishes the pages. She tells the children whose classrooms she visits that ‘I’m not a writer. I’m a rewriter. I go over and over and over. A million times.'”
“Writing, she said, hasn’t gotten easier with time, and one of the biggest misconceptions about children’s books is that they take little effort or brainpower to produce. … ‘I don’t count on inspiration,’ she said. ‘Inspiration follows pushing yourself, pushing yourself, pushing yourself.’
“…great short stories and great jokes have a lot in common. Both depend on what communication theorists sometimes call exformation, which is a certain quantity of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient.”
–David Foster Wallace on humor in Kafka.
Yes, I collect beautiful sentences. Here are two from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
One character describing the way another character speaks: “It reminded him of slicing a yam with a newly sharpened knife, the easy perfection in every slice.”
Describing how a boy from a rural village describes his first sight of the larger, affluent town: “…how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they looked like tables wrapped with leaves.”
from Half of a Yellow Sun
Writers who want to cross that threshold from amateur to professional often ask whether they should focus their attention on a project that seems marketable or write whatever they want to write. Look at it this way…whatever you write might not get published, even if you believe it is a marketable idea; so why not spend your time writing what really speaks to you? Write what you need to write.
“Go to your bosom, knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know” (William Shakespeare, Measure For Measure), and remember amateur comes from the Latin lover.
Check out the Guitar Notes website.
I am hard at work on the next novel, and I’m using a different process. Usually I find the voice of the novel first (Is it the voice of the main character? Is it the voice of a narrator?) and then I write my rough draft in the voice. So, I started this project by writing in the voice of my main character, but it quickly became difficult. What is happening in my character’s life is emotionally hot and overwhelming; and so I found that her energy was too scattered and unstable to follow. My story wasn’t moving forward; it was just a hurricane of her thoughts and anxieties. So, I gave my character a sedative and put her to bed and then I wrote a rough draft in a completely unattached voice, just describing what was happening to her. Behold: a coherent plot emerged. Now that I know what the story is about, I’m revising from the beginning, releasing her voice, allowing her to be fully present in her completely whacked out way.
Thanks to master teacher Liza Levenson, I was invited back to teach a 2-part workshop on Mystery Writing to the fabulous fourth graders at Bannockburn Elementary School!
I loved working with the two classes on brainstorming, crafting, and writing the mysteries.
Teacher Monica Obstgarten created this visual for the outline we came up with for our stories. Students used this outline to dream up terrific, suspenseful (and often funny) stories. Try using the outline to write your own mystery.
From Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works “…the act of being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer–before we probably even know the question–we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach…It’s often only at this point, after we’ve stopped searching for the answer, that the answer arrives.
So don’t despair if you’re stuck! It’s all part of imagination’s “wicked sense of irony.”
I’m delighted to join children’s book writers and illustrators Jacqueline Jules, Alison Hart, Mary Quattlebaum, Laura Krauss Melmed,and Joan Waites as a co-blogger at the Pencil Tips Writing Workshop.My first entry, about the value of sharing mistakes, was just posted. Each blogger takes a turn posting a tip.
Please consider subscribing and/or pass along the link to teachers, parents, and everyone interested in writing for children and young adults.