Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Discipline

Recently, I had a student say children’s writing was “more challenging and restrictive” than she’d thought, and she was considering changing to an adult audience. It may be true that writing for adults is more a fit for her.

Or it might not. With this particular student, we’d only done three lessons together. She hadn’t tried nonfiction, which might be her niche if she’d give it a chance. The real issue, however, is that many of the mistakes she was continuing to make would be a problem for adult readers. So, audience wasn’t the issue. Could it be discipline?

My mother taught piano lessons in our home. I heard her students play scales and play scales. No one learns piano just to play scales—they want to play music! However, scales are a necessary step in the process. Students moved on to simple melodies and, if they worked at it, they advanced to more complicated songs. My mother could tell when students hadn’t practiced in between lessons. They weren’t improving. Writing is similar.

We have to practice, practice, practice no matter whether our audience is children or adults. We must learn the basics of fiction writing: grammar, point of view, setting, characterization, plot, etc. if we are going to succeed.

Like most instructors, I will re-explain a grammar issue, point of view, etc. in a different way in hopes that will work for the student. But sometimes I wonder, did she read what I wrote in my previous letter? Did he even try?

In both courses I teach, we give the students deadlines. Deadlines encourage discipline. Often, the students that progress the fastest are the ones who meet or beat the deadlines. Each lesson builds upon the ones before. When too much time passes between lessons, students forget what they learned earlier. I have to reteach concepts. It slows their progress which can cause frustration for both of us.

All writing is challenging in one way or another. Sometimes it’s coming up with the idea or angle. Or making a character and/or setting come alive. Or perhaps the plot isn’t working. Or the dialogue. But once those frameworks are in place, we still have to check for flow, get rid of unnecessary words, add more detail or information when necessary, etc. And, of course, proofread. The first story I sold to Highlights went through two revisions with the editor before it was accepted. This was after it had been critiqued by fellow writers and revised several times.

I love this quote from Harper Lee, “To be a serious writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It’s sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it in you or not.” And as Patricia Wrede said, “Talent is way down on the list of things you need to write; it comes in a distant fourth, after persistence, motivation, and discipline.”

Please follow and like us:
Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

It Takes Time

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

I thought for sure we’d have my updated website switched from a Movable Type platform to WordPress sometime in May. However, due to complications in life, and difficulties with updating the website, it didn’t happen until a third of the way through June. I still have some broken links to fix, but am pleased with the new look. I know the ease of new posts is going to be worth all the time and effort.

Writing often takes more time than I expect, too. This past weekend I was on a four day writing retreat. I had a huge stack of manuscript pages I hoped to get through. I worked hours each day and only reduced the stack by half. I think part of the slog was that it had been so long since I’d looked at the novel that it took me a while to get back into the character’s voice. I’m grateful though to be that much farther ahead.

My TBR (to be read) stack got higher and higher this last month and a half. Now I have “catch up” to do on book recommendations. Looking forward to sharing those soon.

What’s been taking longer in your writing life?

Please follow and like us:
Posted in Writing Life

A Fresh Look

Siletz Bay April 2019

We stayed on Siletz Bay, Lincoln City, Oregon last weekend. It’s always interesting how the ocean waves, storms, etc. change a beach.

So speaking of change . . . I decided it was time for a new look so am hard at work updating my website. The difficult part is getting the past posts imported–that’s where it helps to have a husband who is a software developer. Thanks you, honey!

“I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.” – Terry Fox

Please follow and like us:
Posted in Writing Life

Uglies, Pretties, and Specials

Another set of books that convinced me completely were Uglies and Pretties (both Simon Pulse, 2005) by Scott Westerfeld.  Books 1 and 2 of this trilogy could be our world in the future or could be another world entirely.  I devoured them one after another.  I worried and anguished along with Tally Youngblood and her friends and dreaded what had to come next in Tally’s life.  I waited anxiously for Specials (2006) to be available.  I talked about the two books I’d read to anyone who would listen.  Specials finally arrived and again other things were shoved aside so I could read.  Do Tally and her friends win? 
I don’t want to spoil it for you by giving an answer, but I was disappointed with some preachiness at the very end of the book.

Go to http://www.scottwesterfeld.com to check out more books by Scott Westerfeld.

Please follow and like us: