Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Time to Start Writing is Now!

I teach writing for my local college's continuing educational program. I love meeting with beginning writers each week and sharing the basics. However, I'm always surprised to find many of them haven't even sat down to write the story building inside them or at least log the ideas they have for story lines.

So my advice to you today if you want to start down the road of becoming a writer...The Time to Start Writing is Now!

Some Idea Starters
For beginning writers (and something I learned when I studied at the Institute of Children's Literature), I have found using visual aids to spark an idea is always a great way to begin the process of writing. You can do this to draft an actually short story or book for submission to just using it as a writing exercise. 

Study the pictures I have below or pick one of your own from a magazine, old photo album, etc. Study the pictures and select one that appeals to you most. 

Also, keep in mind your target readership with picking a picture for inspiration. Young readers’ age groups may be roughly broken down into youngest listeners/readers (ages 3-7), intermediate readers (ages 8-12), and teen readers (ages 13-18).

Things to think about as you sit down to write:
  • Why are the characters doing what they are doing?
  • Can you find something in the picture that suggests a problem?
  • What do the other details in the picture suggest about the setting, the time, the events, etc?
  • What might you infer about the character respective moods and personalities? Their relationship to each other?
Building Your Story Idea:
Begin speculating about what’s going on in the picture you’ve chosen. Keep in mind the picture only exists to help you get started on your story. You can expand beyond what you see—and that your potential young reader will not have seen it. With that said, your story must stand on its own. Don’t feel you must everything you see in the picture or even “match” the scene. Use your imagination and go from there.

Getting to know your main character is important.  
How old are they? As a children’s writer, you’ll write stories with different aged characters all the time for your readership age levels. For this writing exercise or if this is your first time actually sitting down to write, think of the age level where you feel most comfortable. A rule of thumb is youngsters want to read about characters their own age or a bit older.

Don't forger to make trouble for your main character. 
No one wants to read a story where nothing happens. As writers, we get attached to our characters, but we have to remember we need to throw road bumps and trials in our main character's way. It’s how they learn, grow and conquer. Just like our own lives, nothing comes easy. Make sure you also don’t bring in an adult or older character to solve the problem. Young readers like seeing the main character solve the conflict of the story. It builds self-confidence where they think, “Wow, if Harry can do that…so can I!”

Time to Start Writing
If you haven’t started writing your story, now is the time. Don’t worry about spelling or minor editing. Just get your thoughts down. I love to tell my new authors in class, "Just take that idea, chew on it for awhile and then spit it out on the page." As you gain experience, you’ll learn how much advance planning is right for you but for now, getting your idea down is the important part. Every published author/writer will tell you it's called a "rough draft" for a reason. It's the beginning of the writing process, not the end. 

Keep in mind the words may not come easily at first but don’t be discouraged by a few dry runs…you’ll have an opening, ending or a wonder scene idea in no time. You don't have to start writing your story from the beginning either. Start where you feel most inspired and build around, from or backwards from there.

Note: Some writers start from the end of the story and work backwards. Others from the middle building scenes and piecing the story together like a puzzle. Don’t worry about where you start…just start!

Your story’s length is important. 
You are in the home stretch now. Do a rough estimate and see how many words your story is. You can do this in Microsoft Office under the “Review” tab. You should find a “Word Count” button in the “Proofing” section.

Most short stories for youngest readers (ages 3-7) range from 300 to 600 words. Intermediate readers (ages 8-12) range from 500 to 800 words, and teen readers (ages 13-18) range from 500 and up to 2,000 words. Book lengths can vary by publisher and type of book genre.

If you are over your readerships word count, get out your red pen (or delete key) and start cutting unnecessary details.

Once you think your done it's time for the "Check List."
  •  Read your story aloud—what you hear in your head is very different from what you’ll hear when your story is read aloud.
  • Does the story proceed logically from beginning to middle to end?
  • Is there a problem or conflict in the story—a challenge for your main character to meet?
  • Have you included dialogue?
  • Is there a clear sense of the story’s time and place?
  • Is the story within the word count for your readership? (You can be over by 10 percent.)
  • Does it read well aloud?
  • Have you given it a title?
 Now that you made it this far, it's time to start revising. This process can take a long time so don't give up. Most writers don't succeed because they give up too early. To help keep you focused and moving forward, join a local or online writing group. Find a critique partner or group locally or online. Keep reading articles on writing and take a few workshops. All of this will keep you moving forward and most important...Start Writing when you get another story idea even if you haven't finished working on the current one. Some times it is best to take a break from your current story and come back at it with fresh eyes later.


VS Grenier is an award-winning children’s author, founder & owner of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC., award-winning editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine and chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. In addition, to running her own editorial and critique services, she is a writing instructor for Dixie College's Community Education program and host on the World of Ink Network at Blog Talk Radio.

In 2007 & 2008, VS Grenier was voted one of the Top Ten Editors in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll, won 2nd place for her article on, “Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus” in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Nonfiction of 2007, and won 7th place for her article, Dinosaur Tracks in My Backyard” in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Nonfiction of 2008.

VS Grenier learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature and is a member of the League of Utah Writers (HWG) and its current president, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Musing Our Children.
Her works include: Babysitting SugarPaw (a 2011 LUW Silver Quill Award-winner), the Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1 anthology, and over 50 short stories, articles and crafts for children, along with newsletter articles for writers.

When she isn't busy talking with authors and illustrators on her radio shows, working for Stories for Children or Halo Publishing and spending time with her children, VS Grenier is busy writing new adventures in the World of Ink. 
A California girl at heart, she currently lives in Southren Utah with her supportive husband, their three children, and the family’s big fat cat Speed Bump and miniature schnauzer Taz. 

Follow VS Grenier On
The Writing Mama blog
Blog Talk Radio's World of Ink Network


Charmaine Clancy said...

What an intensive post! It's like a whole workshop in one go. Thank you for sharing this information.
Wagging Tales

Virginia S Grenier said...

Thanks Charmaine. I hope this helps to inspire you and many other writers.