Insights from an Author and a Giveaway
I am participating in the blog tour of the just released middle grade fiction book, Write This Down.
Write This Down, written by Claudia Mills, is a story about 12 year-old Autumn’s quest to be published. Like many writers, Autumn struggles with how much to share personal elements of both her life and the lives of her family members.
Author Claudia Mills shared some of her challenges and reflections about her process in writing and revising this piece, and her thoughts lend themselves incredibly well to some important lessons most of us teach or could teach during a narrative writing unit.
Write This Down saw more drafts than any of my other book, even though I had 56 earlier books to practice on!
An important teaching point for developing narrative writers is that revision is just as important to drafting. The idea that an author writes several drafts–even when that author is published and has written so many other books–is a powerful message for young writers. Revision involves far more that capitalization, punctuation, and correct spelling, and often involves whole new drafts!
The real revision, however, begins when I get feedback on my work from others. I can’t stress too much how important it is to find out how actual readers react to one’s work. How can I know if I was funny unless I know if a reader laughs? How can I know if a scene was touching unless a reader chokes up with tears?
In case you missed it, my co-authors Dana, Beth, and Deb presented at the #EdCollab Gathering on Saturday. Dana’s portion of their program focused on feedback, her message being that the most effective feedback is feedback that inspires meaningful change. Her wisdom pairs perfectly with Claudia’s reflection that she needs to know how readers react to her writing. This quote would be a fabulous companion to the slide Dana shared having to do with teaching students about feedback:
I initially began the book with what is now Chapter Five: the scene where Autumn is riding to her orthodontist appointment with her brother, Hunter, at the wheel. I fell in love with my original first line for the book and didn’t want to give it up: “I’m sitting in the backseat of my mom’s Subaru Outback, eyes scrunched shut, seat belt tightened over my churning stomach, waiting to die.” I still think that is a great first line. But I realized that I needed to start the book instead by introducing Autumn as a writer, as that is such a huge part of who she is.
All of the teachers in our district teach about leads and their critical importance in luring readers into the stories. I know students would love to hear that even experienced authors grapple with not only first scenes, but also opening lines. This passage would also lend itself to teaching students about what they can do with favorite lines or passages that they write insofar as working them into the text of a piece.
I did a lot of trimming to streamline Autumn’s first-person narration, which often went on too long. Once I was inside Autumn’s head, I was having too much fun sharing all her thoughts and feelings. But enough was enough! So I cut ruthlessly.
At a certain point in many writers’ lives, we all struggle with going on too long. We all struggle with writing enough, but not too much. We all struggle with whether the details/dialog are moving the story forward or just boring our readers. Another great lesson for narrative writing workshops.
You can follow Claudia’s blog tour as it wends its way. Tomorrow she will be featured by Niki Ohs Barnes at https://daydreamreader.com/.
- This giveaway is for a copy of Write This Down by Claudia Mills. Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for donating a copy for one reader.
- For a chance to win this copy of Write This Down, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, October 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, October 5th.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Farrar, Straus and Giroux will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
- If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – (Write This Down). Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.