Aside from finishing up #SunWriteFun duties (wow is that a lot of work!), getting prepared for my book's launch (are you joining us?! If so, the National Women's History Museum requires that you register), and doing several blog interviews, I agreed to write a letter to middle school students that will be hung on a library bulletin board with other author letters. What a creative librarian! I imagined how much I would have enjoyed reading these notes when I was that age.
Writers are never done learning, practicing, drafting, or editing (or so the latter seems!). I shared this letter with a fellow author before emailing it into the oblivion. To my surprise, she said she actually learned something. So, perhaps what I wrote to students--although obvious to you--might strike a chord. Whether mired in querying and submission or just starting to draft, we all need a reminder of the basics and a little nourishment for our writer's soul every once in a while.
Here are my thoughts for them (and for us)...
First, please make sure to thank your amazing librarian for gathering all these letters!
I decided that I wanted to write books at age eight. Yet, I had no idea how to go from a great story in my journal to a published book. What were the steps? How long would it take? Could I do it? Maybe you have some of the same questions. Therefore, I’d like to offer you three (authors love giving examples or listing items in groups of three) super important tips for when and if you decide to share your stories (Spoiler alert: you really should).
1. Don’t go it alone. Writing might seem like a lonely hobby or job, but it isn’t. Writers usually have critique groups. They exchange stories, help each other with useful suggestions (careful to mind each other’s feelings), and review rough drafts to see how the writer can make their story even better. Every writer, even the most famous, has several people read their work before it becomes a book.
Remember: Having others read and critique your work only helps to make you a stronger writer. Even if you disagree with another person’s opinion, reading their comments gives you another perspective.
2. Keep re-thinking it...again. Writing takes a lot of work! Most of the time, it won’t just flow from mind to paper without needing any changes, edits, or additions. Writers call their second round of edits a “revision.” Why? After writing something down, there is always a need to re-think a word, sentence, paragraph, or even approach to telling the story.
Remember: Never let the number of drafts required get you down. Each one is a positive step to take and will help you get a better story in the end. (Sssh! Don’t spread this around, but most authors whose books you read have done hundreds of revisions…sometimes, more than that for the same story!).
3. Keep working at it. Writing is like a sport. You need practice, focus, skill (which you can absolutely build up), a coach (an editor), and often, a team. If you can listen to those voices and still focus on your own, you’ve got it made!
Remember: One way to practice writing is to read a lot of books by authors you enjoy. Think about how they tell their stories. Look at their sentences? Are they long or short? Do they use adjectives? Is there dialogue? Writers call other books they admire “mentor texts” and study them line by line. You can, too!
So, where should you begin? Start by keeping a journal of ideas. These can range from things you observe, funny comments, quotes, a pet’s antics, or just your own creativity. Just keep listing them until one seems like it is the beginning of a story. Then, write, write, write!
Author Karen M. Greenwald
A Vote For Susanna, The First Woman Mayor