Getting to Know Your Writing Group

writers groupAt the last meeting of our writers’ group we spent some time writing responses to a series of questions.  We could pick any question and write as much or as little as we liked.  Later we shared our answers. I certainly learned more about my writing friends as I listened to their responses.  If you are looking for a way to get to know the members of your writing group just a little better try sharing your answers to this list of queries. 

What is a book that made you cry?

Do you think a person needs a big ego to be a writer?  Why or why not?

Does writing energize or exhaust you? 

What are some difficulties you have run into with publishers?

What is your grammar pet peeve?

I you wrote under a pseudonym what would it be?

If you could tell your younger writing self something important what would it be?

What was the best money you ever spent to improve yourself as a writer?

What would literary success look like to you? 

Where do you write?

What is the hardest scene you have ever written? 

Does your family support or hinder your writing? 

Has has your work as a writer influenced other jobs you may have had? 

How have other jobs you have had influenced you as a writer? 

What is the first piece of writing you ever had published?

Does alcohol enhance or impair your writing creativity?

Where did your interest in writing originate? 

To read more of my blog posts go to What Next. 

 

 

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

The Keys to a Successful Teen Novel?

What makes a best-selling novel for adolescents?  I decided to read two teen novels that have enjoyed huge popularity.  One was published in 2007 and another in 2011. In January of 2013 both were still on the New York Times bestseller list. 

miss peregrines home for peculiar children by ransom riggsAs I read Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and The Absolutely True Diary of  a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie I looked for what characteristics the novels share that might have contributed to their massive success.

1. They have a male protagonist. 

2. They are written in the first person. 

3.  The hero of each story is part of a minority group- Jacob in Peculiar Children is Jewish and Arnold  in True Diary is a Spokane Indian. 

4. Their mothers and fathers are well-meaning but struggle with personal problems of their own that make it difficult for them to effectively parent their sons. 

5.  The main characters have a close  relationship with a grandparent and that grandparent has a huge impact on their life. Both Jacob’s grandfather and Arnold’s grandmother die in the story. 

absolutely true diary of a part time indian

6. The main characters each have a friend who is a stereotypical bad boy. Jacob’s friend Ricky in Peculiar Children has green hair, smokes, spits and drives a battered old car. He’s described as a “punk, redneck James Dean”.  Arnold’s friend Rowdy in True Diary is “the toughest kid on the reservation”. Both Rowdy and Ricky help protect their friends from……..

7.Bullies!  Bullies of various kinds plague our heroes and they must each find the courage to face them. 

8. The novels contain a fair bit of profanity.

9. Characters in both books meet with violent deaths which are described quite graphically. 

10. Jacob and Arnold are exceptionally intelligent.

11. Our protagonists have medical issues. Jacob is seeing a psychologist because of crippling phobias and Arnold has poor eyesight, stutters and experiences seizures. 

12. The young men end up with attractive girlfriends. Jacob has Emma and Arnold has Penelope. 

13. The two main characters are not middle class.  Arnold’s family is incredibly poor and Jacob’s is incredibly rich. 

14. There is an important visual element in each book. 

Arnold is a gifted cartoonist and illustrates his diary with his lots of drawings. 

There are many photos of the peculiar children and adults Jacob befriends in his novel. 

 

It would be interesting to read all the books on the teen best seller list and see how many of these fourteen characteristics the others would share. Which of the fourteen do you think are the most important to include in a successful novel for teens? 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……..

Two Audiences

Leaving Them Cliffhanged

The Newspaper – A Great Resource For Children’s Authors

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Autumn The Perfect Time For Writing

Autumn is the perfect season for writers because………..
waterfall-cornerbrook-driveNature is putting on an inspirational show that prompts us to color our writing with vibrant images

The chill in the air drives us inside to our writing desks

park-bench-juba-park-october-2012Trees are transforming. We can transform our writing habits from the lazy patterns of summer to the disciplined practice of fall

Autumn is the season of thanksgiving. We can be thankful for writing friends and mentors, writing successes, and writing lessons learned
Version 2Autumn is a time of harvest. We can take the storehouse of ideas we’ve harvested and begin turning them into stories and poems and memoirs

Leaves die and trees rest in autumn. Perhaps it is time to let a part of a manuscript we are working on die too, or put a particular project to rest and start another one

apple-orchardAutumn is a time to nourish ourselves with  hot cider, roasted potatoes, tangy apples and spice cookies. It can also be a time to nourish our writing selves with a podcast about outlining stories, a workshop about getting started on a novel, or a magazine article about editing a manuscript .

Autumn is a time for Halloween, a scary night. Can we conquer our fears and send a manuscript off to a publisher, share our writing with others and open ourselves to criticism and suggestion?

fall-newfoundlandWe can look at the how great writers have described autumn and be motivated by their way with words.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower – Albert Camus
Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile – William Bryant
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns- George Eliot

Yes autumn is the perfect season for writers.

Other posts……….

Writer or Palaeontologist

Beginnings

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Two Audiences

“The adults were crying and the children were laughing.”

I'll love you foreverI heard Canadian children’s author Robert Munsch speak at an education conference in the early 1980’s.  He was developing a new story called I’ll Love You Forever.  He told us his method for getting a picture book ready for publication was to tell the story to dozens of audiences. He evaluated their reactions and then adapted the story accordingly till he thought it was ready to write down. By the time he had finished telling his I’ll Love You Forever story at the conference, the hundreds of teachers in the audience were all in tears.

Robert Munsch thought he had a winner with I’ll Love You Forever because he often told the story to groups that included adults as well as children.  When he got to the last section where the son rocks his mother to sleep, the parents and teachers would be crying and the kids would be laughing. The story drew a strong emotional response  from  both age brackets in the audience.

you can write children's books by tracey dilsI am currently reading You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E. Dils. She says since teachers, grandparents, librarians and mothers and fathers are the ones who buy books for kids, our stories need to appeal to adult emotions and sensibilities. Adults may choose to buy a children’s book because they find it artistically, philosophically or nostalgically appealing. 

In her blog post The Dual Audience For Picture Books writer Darcy Pattison reminds us that adults are gatekeepers for children’s access to books. We need to think about whether parents would enjoy reading our story to their child or whether a teacher  might choose it because it fits with a school curriculum topic.

Robert Munsch got it right with I’ll Love You Forever. He has sold more than 15 million copies of the book.  The secret to his success was writing a story that appealed to both adults and children. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……..

Leaving Them Cliffhanged

Writing For Children Not As Easy As I Thought

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Leaving Them Cliffhanged

“I loved the way you cliffhanged me so often in your book.”

I spent a part of my teaching career at an international school in Hong Kong. One year I read aloud Red Scarf Girl to a class of grade five students.

red scarf girl by ji li jiang published by scholasticIt is the childhood memoir of Ji Li Jiang and describes how she and her family survived China’s Cultural Revolution.  After we had finished the book I gave my students an assignment to write a letter to the author telling her what they thought of Red Scarf Girl.

I’ll never forget what William wrote in his letter. He thanked Ms. Jiang for sharing her difficult personal story and described a favorite scene where her brother deals with bullies. He ended by saying “I loved the way you cliffhanged me so often in your book.  I just wanted my teacher to keep on reading. How could she stop when the story was so exciting?” I had explained what a cliffhanger was to the class but until I read William’s letter had never  heard the word used as a verb.

Cliffhangers are certainly a good way to build suspense into writing and as the age of the children who are our target audience increases so can the suspense. Cliffhangers can warn of impeding disaster, reveal a secret, provide a surprising twist in events or have a character display a dangerous emotion. They can present a dilemma or pose a troubling question. It is probably not a good idea to resolve the cliffhanger as soon as the next chapter starts but rather thread the solution through the subsequent pages so the reader will continue to be engaged. 

remarkable journey prince jen by lloyd alexanderDuring my teaching career the book I read aloud to my students that did the very best job of leaving young readers ‘cliffhanged’ was Lloyd Alexander’s The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen. Virtually ever chapter ended with the author talking directly to the reader and asking intriguing questions about what would happen next. 

Cliffhangers should never be forced or added primarily as a marketing feature. However a cliffhanger can enhance the quality of a story and make it more effective. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………

Writing For Children- Not As Easy As I Thought!

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free lance journalist for thirty years. 

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.
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