Marysville Library Blog

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How to Write

Are you a writer? Or, is your child a writer? Maybe I should ask; has your child’s teacher given a writing assignment that has your child staring disconsolately at a blank piece of paper?  Last Saturday I went to the Western Washington Children’s Literature Conference up in Bellingham and picked up some cool tips on how to approach writing a story.

Patrick Carman had three tips:

         Tell the story. Say it out loud to someone else. Have your child tell you what they want the assignment to be like when they are done. The act of speaking it helps them to organize their thoughts and starts getting their exciting idea into words. Telling is a lot less scary than writing, and your child doesn’t have to worry about the mechanics of writing yet.

        Draw the story. When Patrick Carman was writing a story about exploring a mysterious hotel, he drew a picture of the hotel with comments about what element would go where. This picture does not have to be artistic or pretty by any means. This is for the writer’s own clarification only, to help you or your child get ideas, know what to include in the story and where in general to put what. As Patrick Carman put it, even a great writer like Dostoevsky used this method.

        Write the story. Now that your writer has said what the story is and has a picture full of ideas, now is the time to actually write the story. But hey, you and your child are no longer faced with a blank piece of paper and a mind frozen with indecision or too many possibilities. They’ve already told the story, and have a picture full of wonderful details. Now they can write it all out as a story for others to read, and the mechanics of writing and spelling won’t seem so daunting.

Laura Kvasnosky had two tips, and they seem awfully familiar:

1)      Draw a situation with strong emotion. Mine your memories for when you felt really sad, or angry, or joyful, or really hurt, and draw a picture or map of where it took place.  Draw the tree you fell out of breaking your arm, or the raft on the river that you and your sisters sank. Dig through your memories for gold, but don’t let the facts of what really happened get in the way of a good story.

2)      Keep writing. A failed project can be an “organ donor” to a successful project, so save it! If you try something and it doesn’t work, maybe elements of it can be reworked into something new and successful. She mentioned that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to gain mastery of something, so keep writing and trying.

Now go forth and write!