Saturday, April 7, 2012

Please see Write in the Middle!

Hello, visitors! Thanks for your interest in my blog and for your support! I'm phasing out this blog in favor of my new webzine Write in the Middle, also for young writers. Please visit the site for more exciting articles about writing and publishing!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Getting Published: Your First Page

Have you ever sent a story to a magazine or book publisher hoping to get published? Whether you've done that yet or not, you should know there are certain things editors look for on your very first page. If you can hook them there, they'll keep reading - and possibly fall in love with your story.

So what are some of the magical elements editors like to see on a first page? Read on!
1. Action. 
Action doesn't just mean jumping off cliffs or fighting vampires. It also means getting right into the story. So if you've got a tale about a kid cheating on a math test, that's a great place to start. The opposite of action: background. Editors aren't overly excited about stories that start off with tons of information about what characters did in the past that will lead up to the action.

2. Action that moves the story.
Editors like to see more than one event take place on the first page. For example, they don't want to read a whole page about someone waking up for the day. They'd rather learn the person woke up and maybe looked out the window at something strange. Or checked their email and got an interesting message. By the end of the first page, the story should be moving forward.

3. Unusual Ideas.
Realistic stories often have familiar elements. They might be set in the usual home or school environment, for example. But editors also like to see there's something different about your story that makes it stand out from the crowd. So if your main character goes to, say, a school for skiers, that's a good detail to mention right away.

4. Main characters.
If you're going to mention multiple characters on the first page, they should be characters who will play pretty big roles in the rest of the story. Otherwise, they don't really deserve first page billing. Just don't introduce too many characters at once. That can get confusing.

5. Appealing main characters.
A lot of stories revolve around kids who feel they're unpopular. Or who have major attitude. Or who complain about how bored they are. These might be great characters as your story develops. But they can't just be losers, snobs or annoying complainers. They should be likable, too, right from the first page. That way, the editor will root for your characters and keep reading.

And that's the goal of your first page. Hook readers and keep them reading through to the very last page!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Suffering from Writer's Block?

Writers tend to have great imaginations. But even writers can get stuck for ideas. Does that ever happen to you? If you're searching for something - anything! - to write about, here are some ideas (also called prompts) to get those creative juices flowing.

1. Ponder your own questions. 
Ever wonder something off-the-wall? Like… Why are dogs always napping? It's not like they have to hunt for their food, go to school or really do anything at all! Now, take a question like that and answer it however you like. Could make a pretty good story.

2. Stop reading that book!
If you're halfway through a book and wondering how it'll end, this is your chance to decide for yourself. The characters and plot are already in place. All you have to do is write your own ending.

3. Read newspaper headlines.
There are lots of interesting stories in the paper, but you don't have to read them to get writing. Just scan the headlines, then write your own story to follow.

Happy writing!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be a Better Writer: Read it Out Loud!

Writers always want to make their work better. Some say writing is really about rewriting. The problem is, it’s not always easy to know how to rewrite a piece in a way that will improve it. 

Some writers set their work aside for a while after they’ve written the last sentence of a draft. Others start rewriting immediately. But either way, the question remains: How do you know what to do to make it better?

One way you can figure it out is by reading your piece aloud.

Reading what you’ve written out loud gives you a chance to hear where your words and sentences flow—and where things get clunky and awkward. (And yes, there are always spots where writing gets clunky and awkward. At least in the first few drafts!)  Reading work aloud gets your words out of your head, where everything you want to say is clear. When you listen to what you’ve written, you can pretend you’re a reader. You can hear if something doesn’t make sense or if a point you’re making on the page needs more clarification. 

Another benefit to reading your work out loud: It’s a great proofreading method. Spellcheck might not pick up on the fact that you’ve left out a word in a sentence or misspelled a word that has several different spellings (and meanings).  When you read aloud, these types of errors are much easier to spot than when you simply reread silently to yourself.

So the next time you finish a draft of a story, essay, or poem, find a private spot where you can read the work aloud to yourself—no other audience members required. The process will give you plenty of clues about what you should do next to improve your work.