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Teen Writer's Toolkit: Editing

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

So a lot of you have already sent us stories for Just Write, and I'm really excited about reading them, but maybe there's a few of you out there who haven't sent us your story just yet, maybe you think you want to make it a little bit better first. Learning to edit your stories is something that takes time and experience. Sometimes you feel like something's the matter with your story, but you can't quite figure out what it is. For our last Teen Writer's toolkit I thought I'd give you some tips on how to get started editing:

1. Make sure your story is all typed out and double-spaced (that will give you lots of room to write comments to yourself). Print it out and get a pen or a pencil to edit with.

2. Read the story over carefully. Something people often have troubles with is describing characters or places so they really jump off the page. Will your reader be able to picture the setting of your story? What about your character? When you're describing things you want to pick unusual details that people might not have thought of right away. When people describe a character they might say "he was old", or "she had red hair." Can we picture that person? Not really. What if instead we said "wrinkles were etched across his face," or "she had spirals of crimson hair." Don't those descriptions sound a bit stronger? See if you can find some places where your descriptions need more unique details.

3. Read it out loud. Sometimes a story sounds good in your head, but when you read out loud it's like you hear it completely differently. Sometimes you might stumble over a sentence, or read something and think it sounds kind of weird. Those are the places you probably need to go back and fix. Trust your gut. This can be good for dialogue too. Writing realistic dialogue can be tricky. The best way to improve is just to listen to how random stangers around you talk (yes, I'm giving you permission to eavesdrop on people, but try not to be too obvious about it). Observing people and all of the little unique details about them will help you a lot when it comes to making your characters more realistic.

Hopefully that gives you a few ideas for how to polish up that story you're just about ready to send. Remember, the deadline is on the 25th, so you only have a few more days left!

Teen Writer's Toolkit: What to Read

by Emily - 2 Comment(s)

Welcome to the second installment of the Teen Writer's Toolkit! This week I want to provide a resource of great books and websites on writing for you to check out. What's the best part about this list? All of the books on it are available at the library, and of course the websites you can visit for free, so you don't have to pay a dime for all this writing advice!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King

I read this book a long time ago, but it's still one of my favourites. For the first half of the book King provides a memoir about how he became a writer and I have to tell you, there's nothing more satissfying than knowing that he too wrote his fair share of crummy stories and got mountains of rejection letters. Nobody gets to be a literary icon overnight, that's for sure.

The second half of his book is all of the advice he has for writers. I must admit I'm not a fan of King's fiction, he's just not my thing, but he is a good writer and his tips are helpful no matter what you're writing. A lot of his advice has stayed with me over the years, so I hope it'll be helpful for you too.

Sarah Selecky's Website

Sarah Selecky is one of my favourite fiction writers. I read her book of short stories This Cake is for the Party a couple of years ago and fell in love. I highly reccomend that young writers check out Selecky's website as it is a wealth of wisdom on the writing life. You can even sign up for the letters she emails out twice a month which are full of writing insights.

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life - Anne Lamott

I can't believe I didn't know about this writing book until a couple of years ago. I enjoy it a lot because Lamott really does mean it when she says the book is about writing AND life: she gives a lot of good advice about both. We writers seems to like our "writers therapy" or just griping about the writing life and this book appeals to that desire while also being really insightful.

Litreactor

I'll be honest, I haven't poked around into all the nooks and crannies of this literary website, and that's because it's packed with a lot of content. I first found out about it through author Chuck Palahniuk's tweets. The link I've given you will take you to the "Columns" part of the "Magazine" section for Litreactor, which has lots of cool articles for writers. The site does also offer space for writers to workshop their work and take online writing courses, but that content costs money unfortunately.

Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury

I'm pretty sure it was my parents that bought me this book. It's a good over-all how-to book for writers. Bradbury covers a wide range of subjects, from finding your voice and developing your style as a writer, to some hints about the publishing world. He does it all with a great deal of passion for his craft and you can't help but love this quote from the book: "That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” I like the notion of ideas as cats. It takes some work to get them to follow you, because sometimes they'd rather do anything than listen to whatever order you're trying to impose upon them. My last thought on this book: it's by freakin' Ray Bradbury, the guy's a legend so there's some guaranteed good advice in here.

Teen Writer's Toolkit: Getting Started

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

So, you've found out about our Just Write contest and you're really excited to enter, maybe you've even settled on which one of the prompts you want to write about, or maybe you're going to be daring and try to incorporate both into your story. You're sitting there with your notebook open, pen hovering, or maybe you've just turned on your laptop and your fingers don't seem to want commit to the keys. You stare at the blank page before you for longer and longer, cold dread begins to ooze into your guts, your tongue feels thick and dry in your mouth. You can't seem to look away from that blank page, and you can't seem to begin to fill it and the harsh glare of its empty whiteness burns into your retinas. Ok, that was a bit melodramtic, but you know what I mean. It can be really hard to get started sometimes can't it? Well guess what, I can help you with that. The cool thing about getting to help out with this contest and write blogs about it is that I actually am a writer, and I feel like I have some helpful stuff to share with you since I'm a bit further down the road than you. But enough about me, let's get to those tricks I mentioned:

1. Make writing special for you.

What do I mean by this? Bribe yourself. I'm not kidding. What's my way of bribing myself? Well I posted a picture of all the "bribes" I've bought myself over the years just to the left here. I buy myself really nice notebooks that I often get from indie bookstores (Pages Books and Shelf Life carry some spiffy ones) but if you don't want to spend too much cash you can often find nice ones in dollar stores. I keep all of my writing books too. I sometimes like to imagine myself at eighty re-reading my writing books and thinking What on earth was I talking about?!

I couple my fancy writing book with a pen I really enjoy writing with. For me it's a fountain pen; I like the scratchy noise it makes as it flows across the paper. But maybe you have a pen that you already really enjoy writing with. Always write with that one. Just think about it, does some half-crumpled piece of looseleaf you found on your desk and a crummy pen that doesn't work properly seem appealing to write with now? Of course not. Also taking yourself on writing "dates" can help too. I take my writing book out to a nice coffe shop sometimes if I'm getting stuck. Having things like notebooks and trips to cafes makes you eager to start writing instead of dreading it.

2. Freewrite. Freewrite, freewrite, freewrite!

This is the trick I use the most. Freewriting just means that you aren't directly working on your project, rather you're writing about it. Often it takes the form of brainstorming, you throw some ideas out there like spaghetti and see what sticks to the wall. Sometimes for me it almost takes the form of "writer's therapy" where I complain about how terrible the new scene I wrote is, and I rant about that until I feel better and then eventually solutions begin to present themselves. The key to freewriting is to, well, be free about it. Write really fast and don't worry about grammar or spelling. Don't even stop to think. Sometimes I've come up with completely different angles to approach things from just by scribbling madly about it for ten minutes.

So there you are. Two tools to help get you started. I'll be posting about Jani Krulc and the Flywheel Reading Series next week and also be giving you another installment of the Teen Writer's Toolkit. So go find your note book and Just Write! (See what I did there? How I wittily worked the name of our contest into the sentence? That's how you know I'm a pro and not some hack.)