Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

11/18/09

A WRITER'S TOOLS


Reading the other posts on this topic has truly been an inspiration. Regretfully, I have little to add on the topic of “favorite writing exercises” – to the point that I am a day late in submitting my post! I took a few creative writing classes in college (over 20 years ago) and have participated in numerous writing conferences, especially the last few years. Rather than utilize any specific exercises to work on my craft or “jumpstart” my creative juices, however, I have relied on a few fundamental mantras gleaned over the course of my life, as follows:

READ: You always hear successful writers (not to mention editors and agents) tout the importance of reading, and, perhaps even more importantly, learning from what you read. This includes not only favorite/classic/successful fiction but books on writing craft as well. Some of the most helpful titles, for me, from the latter group include Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen and The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb. Also, I find inspiration in reading books about other books, such as Masterplots II, Juvenile and Young Adult Literature Series, a seven-volume series that covers “form and content,” “analysis,” and “critical context” for hundreds of titles; these entries help me study the nuts and bolts of successful fiction like no other resource (kind of like condensed Cliffnotes for children’s literature). In bygone years I would have spent hours at my local library reading Masterplots, but with the advent of the Internet I was able to purchase the entire set (which retails for literally hundreds of dollars) for $5!! It remains my personal favorite resource for inspiration and learning my craft.

WRITE: This one is rather self-evident if your goal is to be a writer. Still, finding time to write amidst life’s many requirements can be a challenge, as can sticking with a project on the not-so-good writing days. Rather than set a word or page-count goal each day, I just make sure I cloister inside my writing shack and “give it a go” every single day I am at home, for at least 3-4 hours.

BELONG TO A CRITIQUE GROUP: It took awhile, but after a few false starts, I have hooked up with two critique groups that provide me with valuable feedback and needed camaraderie. The groups have a mix of published and not-yet-published writers, as well as diverse personalities, that never fail to inspire me and definitely have improved my stories.

Read, write, critique and be critiqued – these are the primary tools I use in my own personal quest to work on my craft and improve my stories. Not the most groundbreaking strategies, I know, but tried-and-true nonetheless. Which isn't to say I won't try a few of the exercises generously shared by others on this blog -- in fact, I already have! I'm always open to new ideas and strategies, and when it all finally pays off with an acceptance letter, I’ll let you know!!

4 comments:

Christy said...

Thank you, Mark! I'm so impressed that you get 3-4 hours of writing in a day! The book you showcase looks intriguing; I'll have to look for it.

Edie said...

Great primary tools and advice, Mark! All writers can use this.

David LaRochelle said...

I second all of your advice, Mark, and though it's advice I often tell others, I need to be reminded to follow this advice myself. I, too, am impressed with your discipline of daily writing and can learn from your dedication.

ccarpinello said...

Hi Mark,

I would like to know where and how you purchased the Masterplots series for $5!

I have been unable to find the series.

Cheryl Carpinello
author of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend