Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Writing Lessons from Elementary School, part 2

This is the second post inspired by my amazement at the great writing in Don't Stay Up So Late, a collection of stories by Erickson Elementary (Yspilanti, MI) students who worked with volunteers from 826michigan. See yesterday's post here. And then go to 826michigan and get yourself a copy, if you can.

10 Things Elementary School Writers Know They Should Do
and Their Stories Are Much Better For It
(i.e. Things I Wish More Grown-Up Authors Remembered)

1. Something has to happen in your story. A list of things you like is not a story. A list of what someone did that day ("And then we went to Joe's. And then we played Wii. And then we ate dinner.") is not a story.* Neither is a 40 page treatise on your thoughts on the nature of fiction, even if you put it in quotes and write "he said" at the end.

2. Your story has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. "End Book 1" is not an ending.

3. Use lots of juicy details.

4. Spelling and grammar DO count...

5. ... but not on your first draft messy copy.

6. Books with pictures are best.

7. In a good story, a character learns something or changes somehow. But you don't have to write "The moral is..." and beat us in the head with it.

8. Stories are meant to be read. By other people. Preferably out loud. So somebody besides you has to be able to sound out and understand your story, and enjoy it. It's not a good story if you have to sit next to the person and explain everything (or if I have to buy a "Reader's Guide" to understand what you were trying to say).*

9. Writing stories is hard. It takes a lot of work. You have to practice and you have to find somewhere you can concentrate. And you have to see it through to the end.

10. A book is not a real book if you only SAY you are going to write, but never start, or if you tell everyone about it but never finish, or if you finish it and are afraid to show the teacher. If you see it through to the end, and you revise it and edit it, and if you give it a title and make pictures for it, and if someone who is not you reads it and enjoys it, it is a "real" book, even if nobody ever buys it on Amazon.

* Unless you are James Joyce and the book is Ulysses


cath c said...

thanks, much needed to hear here...

Ann Finkelstein said...

I love these.

Anonymous said...

These are all great. I definitely need to take #10 to heart and get some stories finished that I've been dragging my feet on.

Julie Hedlund said...

These are just priceless. Thanks for sharing!

Jacqui said...

Thanks, all! Susanne, that is the hardest part, really, eh?