Monday, February 4, 2013

Ten Best Tips

I've been writing books for kids for over 15 years. Here are the TEN BEST TIPS that have helped me experience success and have lots of fun!

1. Make time to write.

Red Cedar Award 2012
 It really all comes down to that. If I don't make writing a  priority, it doesn't happen. And then I'm a person who likes to think about writing. I'm not a writer.

 2. Set goals.

 Small goals work better than big goals for me. I have a better chance of reaching them. Instead of setting a goal to write a novel, I set a goal to write the next scene.  Or to research Edwardian clothes. Or to construct a character profile. One of my goals for 2013 was to start a blog. And I've done it!

 3. Keep a journal.

 For me, this is not a diary. I only write about writing business. I record what I do each day: my word count, my successes, my failures, important emails, school and library visits, research, my goals. It makes me accountable. And it's fun to read my old journals and see how my writing life has progressed.

 4. Read read read!

 I'm a children's author so I read lots of books by other children's authors. I  read quality books (reviews and lists of award winning books are two sources.) I get ideas and inspiration. I learn what kinds of books are marketable and which books win readers choice awards (the best kind of award because kids pick the winners.) I find out how other authors handle  challenges and tricky parts.  And I have a lot of fun doing this because kids books are the best!

 5. Spend time with kids.

 For years I was an elementary school teacher so it was easy. I raised my daughter on our ranch and spent a lot of time with my young nephews. Now that I'm retired, I have to look for opportunities. I volunteer in our local school one day a week. It keeps me in touch. I also visit schools and libraries to talk about my books.

 6. Read how-to-write books and writing magazines.

 There are so many great ones to choose from. They cover every possible topic from developing characters, constructing plots, exploring point of view and dealing with writer's block. They've been a huge help to me. I'm just about to dive into How To Write A Damn Good Mystery by James Frey for advice on plotting an historical murder mystery. The danger is that it's easier to read about writing than to write.  It comes back to tip #1. Make time for writing! Your own writing, not someone else's.

 7. Dip into your childhood memories.

 What made you laugh, cry or worry when you were a kid? You can bet kids today are just the same. Ask your friends and family for some of their memories. I remember accidently leaving the door open of my friend's canary cage that had been set outside on the lawn. The canary soared to the top of a very tall tree. It was a tiny yellow dot against the blue sky. I can still feel my horror. I haven't written about that yet but I will one day.

 8. Open yourself to new experiences.

 Every time I get a chance to experience something new (renting a houseboat, digging for fossils, snowshoeing, training a puppy, going to a French language school in France, organizing a pet show at school, joining a yoga class) I increase my pool of ideas. You never know what will make a great story.

 9.  Support yourself with other writers.

 It doesn't have to be too serious. Just hang out with people who like to write. I have three fabulous writing friends, Ainslie, Kathy and Ann, and we get together as often as we can and read stories, laugh, drink wine and eat! I always come away from our weekend retreats inspired and ready to keep writing.

 10. Make time to write.

 I know I already said that. But I think it is the most important of all and worth repeating. And sometimes the hardest to do.

Next week:  Just Do It!

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