Thursday, January 21, 2010

For the love of readers!

The following is a blog post patterned after a painfully boring "beginning reader," which I listened to some Kindergarteners read today:

See me blog.

See me blog with a dog on my lap.

The dog can nap, nap, nap.

I can tap, tap, tap.

I can tap fast.

I can sip, sip, sip.

My blog is done.

Okay, so maybe my blog isn't done. But really, how dull does a beginning reader have to be? Are we trying to foster a love of reading in our children, or show them that reading will put them to sleep? For the good of all future "beginning readers," I hereby issue this challenge to any writer with the desire to rescue our children from literary misery:

Write an easy reader that is BOTH easy for a beginning reader and at least a little bit interesting. It's not easy to do, but you don't have to be Dr. Seuss to make it work. I've seen very simple, easy books that made kids giggle. Even beginning readers (just not many of them).

Are you up for it?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Recycled Writing

We do it with peanut butter jars, old T-shirts, and even leftovers. When they've served their purpose they get recycled, reused, reworked into something fresh and new.

We can do that with our writing too! Here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of your old (or not so old) writing:

  • Old manuscripts that don't seem to be working can be picked apart so that you can use their good parts in another story.
  • Non-fiction articles can be transformed into completely new pieces. A long article about arctic foxes can be reworked into a list of fox facts, or a short filler.
  • Take info from articles and work it into puzzles to fit magazine theme lists (great for kids' magazines).
  • Sell old pieces as reprints.
  • Got a picture book manuscript that doesn't seem to be catching on? With a little tweaking, you can turn it into a magazine story.
  • Use the info from a nonfiction piece (animal, person from history?) to write a fact-based picture book or magazine story.
Remember, just because an article or story has been published doesn't mean its life is over. Make the most out of every bit of writing you do!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Writing Dialogue

I'm trying to keep up with my 2010 blog goals and am already falling behind! I had a fabulous post about writing dialogue all planned out in my mind. But when I sat down to write it...well, sometimes writing is like decorating a cake or drawing a picture--it doesn't always turn out the way you imagined it. But here goes anyway!

Sometimes reading dialogue can be annoying. There might be too much talking and not enough action going on. Or there may be a string of untagged comments that make my head spin trying to keep up with who's saying what. So here are a couple of guidelines I like to follow when writing dialogue (so as not to annoy my readers):

1. Use tags sparingly. You don't need a "he said" or "she said" after every line of dialogue.

2. When using tags, "said" is fine for most dialogue. You won't get extra points for creativity and word choice if you do this:

Ted looked out the window. "It's raining," he sighed.
"Really?" whined Bob. "I wanted to go swimming."
"Me too," replied Ted.
"Me three," grumbled Jane.

It's better to show your characters' emotions through their words and actions rather than throwing a creative tag in there.

"That stinks!" said Bob. "Now we can't go swimming."

You see? "Said" works just fine. Of course, sometimes "he sighed" or "she grumbled" is the right thing. Just don't overdo it!

3. Break up sections of dialogue with some action. Your reader doesn't just want to know what your character is saying, but to have a picture of your character as he is speaking.

Ted pulled the curtain back and peered outside. "It's starting to rain," he sighed.
Bob leaned his head against the glass. "That stinks. Now we can't go swimming."
"It's okay," said Jane. "Maybe Mom will let us play in the rain."
The two boys grinned at each other and bolted from the room. "Hey Mom!"

"I hope my little dialogue guidelines are helpful to you in your writing endeavors," said Rebecca.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Writing Your Life

What do you write when you are "between projects"? Do you brainstorm ideas? Tackle some writing prompt challenge? Dig out dusty old manuscripts to see if inspiration strikes? These things may work for you sometimes, but if they don't seem to be getting your writing juices flowing, try writing a story you already know. Pick an event from your life--something from long ago or something from yesterday--and write it out as creatively as possible.

Because I haven't written anything fresh lately, I'll do it with a story about my son.

My son was two years old when we visited a new church. Since we were unfamiliar with the new place, we opted to bring him to the service with us rather than leaving him in the care of nursery workers.

All was going well. My son was happily seated between me and my husband as we stood singing praise songs along with the congregation. The room was dim, the voices low. Some people raised their arms in worship. Others bowed their heads and sang in a whisper. A man in the row behind us sat quietly, leaning forward in his chair and resting his head in his hands, praying.

My son stood up, facing backward--facing the quietly praying man. I wish I had witnessed the look on his face as he schemed.

"RAHRRGG!!" My son's voice rang out in his best lion imitation.

The praying man jerked his head up in surprise. My husband and I gasped, trying our best not to laugh as we shushed our son.

At the end of praise time, we shared a few chuckles with that man in the row behind us.

Who says two-year-old don't belong in church?