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In a world class city, the streets will get us from point A to point B, but they will also give us a taste of the city’s culture, connect neighborhoods, and create a natural flow. In our novels, we want scenes to get us where we’re going, but we also want them to leave us with new information, new questions, or greater understanding of our setting and characters. In other words, like a great city boulevard, we want a great scene to keep things moving in the most thrilling and memorable way.
Here are some tips that will help you to create strong scenes:
In every scene, the MC should be acting, reacting, or both—all with a purpose.
Every scene must move the main character (or the POV character if the book contains multiple POVs,) toward his or her objective. The reader should know what the character is working toward, and how the actions they take are intended to bring about those goals. You may want to create a scene that reveals the terrain of your story’s world or that lets the reader know the truth about the MC’s father. Definitely do that, but make sure the scene contributes to the MC’s objective.
As an example, consider the scene early in The Hunger Games where Katniss goes hunting before the reaping. As readers, we see the woods around the Seam, we meet Gale, and we learn a lot of backstory. But at the heart of the scene is Katniss’s action in support of her objective of providing for her family and keeping them safe.
Every scene should contain obstacles to the MC’s objective.
A scene that has no obstacles will have no conflict and won’t keep the story moving and the reader engaged. Even if the scene contributes to the MC’s objective, it won’t be engaging if it doesn’t contain a challenge. It doesn’t have to be obvious or overtly connected, but it needs to have some impact on whether or not the MC will achieve his or her goal.
Take another look at the example of the hunting scene from the opening of The Hunger Games. In that scene there is conflict between Gale and Katniss over the idea of whether they should try to run away. They don’t have a huge argument, but Katniss gets irritated and snaps at Gale. She remarks that “the conversation feels all wrong.” Not a huge conflict, but one that connects to the central objective of keeping her family safe. If Gale encourages her to leave with him, he’s putting that objective in jeopardy. The scene reveals this larger conflict on a smaller scale.
Every scene should matter.
Every scene needs to have something valuable at stake. It could be huge, like the welfare of your MC’s family, or smaller, like her mood on the day of the reaping. But every scene needs to have something connected to the MC’s goal at risk.
The size of the stakes will depend on how strongly they impact the character’s objective. A scene with lots of conflict and high stakes—a head-on car crash that leaves a boy pinned inside a burning car, for instance—only delivers if it connects to your MC’s goal. If your MC is struggling to cope with PTSD, and she saves that boy from the burning car, her stakes are impacted along with his. The stakes might be life and death for him, but this isn’t his story, so those stakes won’t resonate as strongly. But saving him required our MC to face her condition, so she had stakes in the scene, too. It’s the stakes that connect to your character’s goals that matter the most in your scene.
Every scene must move the plot forward, but great scenes will contribute other elements to the story, as well.
A truly great scene contributes more than just goal and conflict. If you can weave in setting, character growth, backstory, etc. you will have created a truly great scene. Think of the trash compactor scene in the first Star Wars movie. There’s conflict that impacts the characters’ goals of rescuing the Princess and thwarting the Empire, but there’s also great use of setting, character development, and dialogue. All these things support the main action of the scene—escaping the trash compactor before they are all crushed to death.
Just like a great city has all sorts of streets keeping things moving and connected, your novel will have many kinds of scenes driving the story forward and keeping the reader turning pages. Next month I’ll post about chapters, the neighborhoods of your novel.
How do you feel about scenes? Did I miss anything important? Do you have any additional tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Hi All! Today I want to talk about the next building block of a novel—paragraphs! (This is part three of a series. Part one was on word choice and part two was on sentences.)
If we continue with the metaphor comparing a novel to a city, we can imagine words as bricks, sentences as walls, and paragraphs as… buildings!
Think of the buildings on a city street. They may be linked together, but each has its own door, its own foundation, its own roof.
Now imagine you’re tasked with planning a walking tour of that street. Your goal is to design a tour that leads from one building into the next. You would want each building to be enjoyed for its own strengths and beauty, but it would be equally important that the tour keep moving! Each building would need to naturally flow into the next and keep the tourists wanting to discover more.
That’s how great paragraphs work. They have their individual strength to stand on their own, but they keep the reader moving forward. No matter how beautiful or strong or resonant a paragraph may be, it fails if it slows the reader’s progress forward. Likewise, a paragraph that’s weighed down by excess might encourage skimming, which has an equally negative effect on the reader’s experience.
You may not even think about paragraphs as you write. (I know I rarely consider them until I’m revising.) Often we group our sentences together instinctively, creating that new indent when focus shifts. This casual approach to paragraphs will often produce very adequate prose. But by giving more care to our paragraphs, we can create a stronger story that won’t let a reader’s attention wander.
Here are three tips for maximizing the strength of your paragraphs:
Make each paragraph contribute more than one aspect of the story. A paragraph of description follows a paragraph of dialogue. A paragraph of action comes next, which is followed by a paragraph of internal monologue. Writing like this will get the story onto the page, but it’s unlikely to make it leap to life. The reader will begin to be lulled by the monotony. Paragraphs that combine story elements will convey the same information, but in a more engaging way.
As an example, here’s a passage of three paragraphs from Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman.
By the time I’s raced back to Silver and grabbed my rifle, Lil’s already disappeared among the dense vegetation. “Thanks for waiting,” I mutter to myself, and take to tracking her between shrubs and cactuses. When I finally catch up, she’s crouched behind a boulder, some sort of net clenched in her grasp.
She puts a finger to her lips and nudges her head toward the other side of the boulder. It’s then I see the quail—maybe a dozen of ‘em, pecking at the dry earth for what I reckon must be insects. I creep forward, but gravelly earth crunches beneath my heel. There’s a flutter of feathers and a chorus of squawks, and the birds go scampering deeper into the thicket of shrubs.
Lil glares. “You walk like your feet are made of stone.”
Those three paragraphs could have been written as a paragraph of description, followed by a paragraph of action, followed by a few paragraphs of dialogue. The same information would have been provided. But by combining these elements within these paragraphs, we experience the characters, the setting, and the action all at once, and the prose comes to life on the page.
Vary the length of your paragraphs. Long paragraphs might be used to reveal something important that needs careful attention. Short paragraphs might be used to keep the story moving quickly through action. Mixing short and long can keep the reader moving while signally where it may be important to linger.
Here’s an example from the opening of Queen and Shadows by Sarah J. Maas:
There was a thing waiting in the darkness.
It was ancient, and cruel, and paced in the shadows leashing his mind. It was not of his world, and had been brought here to fill him with its primordial cold. Some invisible barrier still separated them, but the wall crumbled a little more every time the thing stalked along its length, testing its strength.
He could not remember his name.
In this example, the short first paragraph grabs the reader’s attention, and the longer second paragraph draws the reader in deeper as it gives clarity to the questions raised in the first paragraph. The short third paragraph shifts the focus again.
Consider carefully where you end and begin new paragraphs. This goes hand-in-hand with the tip about paragraph length. In nonfiction, paragraphs are generally organized to support a topic sentence. The organization of paragraphs in fiction can be much looser, however, and paragraph breaks can be more creatively applied. Ending a paragraph immediately after a certain sentence will create a different emphasis than if that sentence occupies the middle of the paragraph or starts the next paragraph. Looking again at the above example from Queen of Shadows, how would the emphasis change if we changed the paragraph breaks? How would the focus change if we did this:
There was a thing waiting in the darkness. It was ancient, and cruel, and paced in the shadows leashing his mind.
It was not of his world, and had been brought here to fill him with its primordial cold.
Some invisible barrier still separated them, but the wall crumbled a little more every time the thing stalked along its length, testing its strength. He could not remember his name.
Changing the paragraph breaks changes the emphasis. As readers, we tend to pay special attention to the content of paragraphs made up of a single sentence. In the actual example from the book, the emphasis is on the effect “the thing in the dark” has on the character. In the revised example, the attention shifts away from the effect to the fact that it was brought here to menace him. We focus on different things depending on the breaks.
How do you feel about paragraphs? Are they a tool you enjoy using? Do you have any additional tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Although the central analogy of this series compares writing a novel to constructing a city, forgive me for switching to a different metaphor for a moment. If we think of a novel as a living body, sentences create the heartbeat. Choices a writer makes about sentences can alter that heartbeat—make it speed up, slow down, pound harder, or even skip out of rhythm.
Returning to the city analogy, if words are the bricks, then sentences are the walls. They provide support and structure, but they also control how a building is experienced. High ceilings, narrow passageways, walls of glass and steel–change these things and the whole building changes. In the same way, each sentence makes a difference, and each must be deliberately crafted.
Here are some tips for creating great sentences:
Use sentence length deliberately. Long sentences can force the reader to linger, allowing an image to appear in the reader’s mind. Here’s an example from Truthwitch by Susan Dennard:
“As Iseult det Midenzi wriggled free from her sea-soaked tunic, boots, pants, and finally underclothes, everything hurt. Every peeled-off layer revealed ten new slices from the limestone and barnacles, and each burst of spindrift made her aware of ten more.
This ancient crumbling, lighthouse was effective for hiding, but it was inescapable until the tide went out. For now, the water outside was well above Iseult’s chest, and hopefully that depth—as well as the crashing waves between here and the marshy shoreline—would deter the Bloodwitch from following.”
Long sentences can also carry the narrative along, picking up speed as they go. Here’s an example from The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry:
“The walls and floor are aging now, the light still juddering through its phases like a movie from a projector, until the drywall starts crumbling, spiderwebbed with vines and weeds. From those vines, flowers blossom and wither and grow back and die again. Seasons stretch into years stretch into decades stretch into centuries, all in moments, while I can hear Beau’s breath, make out his edges through the millisecond of dark before another morning comes.”
By contrast, short sentences cut out all the window dressing. They ensure pauses. Short sentences change a rolling pace to a staccato rhythm. This can be effective for focusing attention on the plain meaning of the words. Here’s an example from The Martian by Andy Weir:
“I ache all over. And the shovels I have are made for taking samples, not heavy digging. My back is killing me. I foraged in the medical supplies and found some Vicodin. I took it about ten minutes ago. Should be kicking in soon.”
One thing I love about the above example is how a sentence starts with “And…” rather than continuing from the previous sentence. If those two sentences were joined into one, the resulting long sentence would ruin the effect that the shorter sentences create: a man in pain giving a spare description of his circumstances.
Vary the structure. This is important advice if you have a favorite sentence structure, because you may not realize how frequently you repeat it. Your reader will notice, though, and those wonderful sentences will lose their power. I personally love parenthetical phrases—especially when set off by dashes—but if I use too many on a page the sentences become muddled. Changing up the structure keeps the reader engaged. It combats boredom. Here’s an example of varied sentence structure, from Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard:
“He stares at me, scrutinizing everything from my face to my worn boots. It makes me squirm. After a long moment, he heaves a breath and lets me go. Stunned, I can only stare at him. When a silver coin spins through the air, I barely have the wits to catch it. A tetrarch. A silver tetrarch worth one whole crown. Far more than any of the stolen pennies in my pockets.”
One of the things I like best about the above example is the fact that the last three sentences are fragments. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore that red underline in Word that tells you the sentence isn’t grammatically correct. Here, it’s clear that those sentences are thoughts in the narrator’s head, and we rarely think in complete sentences.
Check for clarity. Sometimes we try so hard to create prose that stands out that we let communication suffer in the name of style. You can create lovely, lyrical, complex sentences, but your writing will suffer if clarity is sacrificed. Parallel structure, consistent tense, and clear pronouns are all the more important when sentences become more intricate. Here’s a made-up example of what I mean:
“The trail was blanketed in snow and shadows, creating a patchwork design that climbed into the mountains. The hikers paused. Their feet ache in their damp boots, memories of so many miles imprinted on their soles. It’s terrifying, Megan thought. Terrifying, yet beautiful. Her freezing toes wiggle inside her boots as they press forward, leaning into the wind.”
This example is loaded with clarity issues. The first line seems to say that the trail was creating a patchwork design, when it’s actually the snow and shadows. There are multiple tense changes, and it’s unclear what Megan finds terrifying yet beautiful. The view, or her aching feet? The last line seems to say that her toes are pressing forward, leaning into the wind.
How’s this instead?
“Snow and shadows blanketed the trail, creating a patchwork design that climbed into the mountains. The hikers paused. Their feet ached in their damp boots, memories of so many miles imprinted on their soles. It’s terrifying, Megan thought, her gaze taking in the view. Terrifying, yet beautiful. Her freezing toes wiggled inside her boots as she and the others pressed forward, leaning into the wind.”
Still not great prose, but the sentences are clearer! They make more sense and better support the story.
What are your thoughts on sentences? Do you have any advice to add? Please share your ideas in the comments!
The fabulous Lori M. Lee tagged me for this one! I'm going to cheat a bit and tell you about both my about-to-be-published book and my WIP, because ERMAHGERD, guys, I'm so excited for both of them. Okay? Okay.
(Side note: those of you who have added my book on Goodreads, THANK YOU, but that isn't the official Goodreads page. My publisher didn't make it. And whoever did mixed me up with another author, so...yeah. Not me. I'll let you guys know when there's a book to add--it'll be around the time that I get to share my title with all of you!)
1. WHAT IS THE WORKING TITLE OF YOUR NEXT BOOK?
Still can't tell! But I CAN tell you that I submitted it as FOR EVERY LIFE, which is a reference to Newton's Third Law of Motion, and I CAN tell you that the title of my WIP is MEMENTO MORI, which is Latin for "remember you will die." Mori is also the name of my protagonist (who's dying. Shocker, huh?)
2. WHERE DID YOUR IDEA
UNTITLED (we'll just call it that for now--isn't it easier?) actually began as two short stories--one about an abandoned imaginary friend, and one about a girl who tries to commit suicide. UNTITLED is their lovechild. I'm not sure where the ideas for the two original short stories came from, but I knew there was a connection between them and I knew I wanted to develop that connection into a full-length novel.
MEMENTO, on the other hand, has been sitting in the back of my mind for...a year? Two? I don't remember where the idea came from, or when I got it, but I remember thinking, "I have to write this story. I have to."
3. IN WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL?
UNTITLED is YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism. MEMENTO is YA contemporary with a touch of ice cream (or a lot of ice cream).
4. WHAT ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THE PART OF YOUR CHARACTERS IN THE MOVIE RENDITION?
Something about UNTITLED: there are no descriptions of the character's appearances. None. I want people to be able to see themselves in Liz and Kennie and Julia. I want them to be able to see their friends. I want the characters to be anyone, everyone. So no actors :)
As for MEMENTO....I don't know I'm just really bad with actors and stuff okay LEAVE ME ALONE
5. WHAT IS THE ONE-SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?
UNTITLED is about a girl who tries to end her short and catastrophic attempt at life, told from the perspective of her abandoned imaginary friend.
MEMENTO MORI is about a girl with half an immune system, a boy with half of his muscles, a cat named Schrödinger, and the road trip they take to solve the paradox of life.
6. WHO IS PUBLISHING YOUR BOOK?
UNTITLED is coming out in fall of 2014 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. MEMENTO MORI is not currently under contract.
7. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MANUSCRIPT?
I wrote the first draft of UNTITLED during NaNoWriMo 2012--so, a month. I'm actually super proud of that, mostly because November was a rough month for me, and I was under word count the entire time. I managed to pound out something like 13K in the last two days. Then I revised for about two months, and it sold the following February.
As for MEMENTO...well. I've been drafting for the last four months or so, and I have about another 15K to go.
8. WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE YOUR STORY TO WITHIN YOUR GENRE?
UNTITLED: BEFORE I FALL meets THIRTEEN REASONS WHY
MEMENTO: Hmmm....I'm not sure. My CP says it reminds him a bit of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, except, you know, far less AMAZEBALLS.
9. WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
"Isn't this basically the same as question #2?"
Lori's answer, which I'm seconding.
10. WHAT ELSE ABOUT THE BOOK MIGHT PIQUE THE READER’S INTEREST?
UNTITLED is told by an imaginary friend, which opened up these incredible options for the story. The story is actually told in a non-linear fashion--there are three main times: a countdown from seven days before Liz crashes her car, a countdown of the hour before Liz crashes her car, and the day after Liz crashes her car. And there's a chapter with eleven words. I love that chapter.
In MEMENTO, Mori has written letters to the dead for as long as she can remember, and the book is actually her last notebook of letters. Among the addressees: Maurice Sendak, Gregory Peck, Nannerl Mozart, Georgiana Cavendish, and, of course, Schrödinger. I really love playing around with narration (have you noticed?)
I'm tagging fellow Greenwillow author Chessie Zappia, whose book ASK AGAIN LATER sounds totally amazefrackingballs and Mark O'Brien, because he's working on this new MS that I want everyone to be excited about. Take it away, guys!
When I visit a classroom, one of the first things I often say to kids is, "Today, please don't erase. I want to see ALL the great work you are doing as a writer. When you erase, your work disappears!" Often, this is what kids are accustomed to and they continue working away. But sometimes, kids stare at me as if I've got two heads.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about Inciting Incidents that seemed to be helpful for a lot of our readers at PubCrawl, and I’ve had a few requests to continue dissecting story beats. So I’ve decided to tackle the next one on my list: The Midpoint.
I know a lot of writers struggle with middles, but I’m actually not one of them. For me, the middle of the novel is simply an extension of the beginning, and in fact, I tend to think of my books more or less in halves: the beginning, and then the end. The point that delineates the beginning from the end is the midpoint.
First of all, let me say: there is no wrong way to write a novel. Write however works best for you. For me, my stories tend to naturally structure themselves into four acts, with three inflection points: Revelation (end of Act I), Realization (end of Act II), and Resolution (end of Act III). The Realization (end of Act II) generally tends to be my Midpoint.1
So what is the Midpoint, exactly? Why is it given such emphasis in all these story structure/plot books? I mean, a middle is just the boring bridge between the opening and the ending, right?
Personally, for me, the Midpoint is the moment of greatest change; in fact, I would argue it is the top of the mountain of your story arc. Everything builds up to it, and then everything unravels from it. The Midpoint is what the beginning of your novel is working towardsand what the ending of your novel is working from. Because of this, I actually think the Midpoint of your novel is where your story reveals itself.
What do I mean by that? I mean that the sort of plot point/character development that is your Midpoint2 reveals the type of story you’re writing. The “point” of your book, as it were.
For example, in Pride & Prejudice, the Midpoint of the novel is when Darcy sends Lizzy a letter, explaining himself after she has turned down his offer of marriage. Until she reads his letter, Lizzy has been staunch in her prejudice against Mr. Darcy based on a bad first impression, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Suddenly, she realizes she has interpreted all his actions incorrectly due to a mistaken pride in her own cleverness.
And there you have it, the entire point of Pride & Prejudice, as neatly summarized by the Midpoint.
The Midpoint is often referred to as a Midpoint Reversal, because there is often some sort of reversal of fortune or big twist or some other reveal that changes the entire context of the story (as in the case of Pride & Prejudice). However, not all Midpoints involve a reversal of some kind. For example, the Midpoint of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone3 is when Harry discovers just what Hogwarts has been protecting: the eponymous stone itself. And there you have it: the point of the first Harry Potter book.
All stories, regardless of how they’re structured, have Midpoints. They may not fall in the exact middle of your book, but they are in that neighborhood nonetheless. Without them, you have a “sagging middle” and, I would argue, no actual point to your story.
So there you have it: Midpoints! Are there any other story beats you guys would like for me to cover? Sound off in the comments!
There are many, many, MANY ways to structure your novel. Traditionally, Western movies and screenplays are divided into three acts. Plays are often one or two acts. Tragedies can be five acts. Far Eastern narrative structure tends to fall into four acts. ↩
And to be honest, the Midpoint is the one of the few places in your manuscript where the plot point and character development should be the same thing. ↩
I HATE that the title was changed for the U.S. edition; it makes absolutely no sense to call it a “sorcerer’s stone” when a philosopher’s stone is a real thing. ↩
I’ve been thinking a lot about conventions and their importance. Without proper conventions, how can a piece of writing hold its own? All of our young writers need to realize that published writers use conventions when they’re drafting, not just as an editing tool.
There’s a new book coming out on Tuesday, [...]
My students and I agreed to a form that I would use to provide them with feedback on the drafts of their research-based essays. We decided that it was a comprehensive way for me to quickly inform them whether their writing was clear and factual on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis (They’re only turning in the three [...]
My students and I agreed to a form that I would use to provide them with feedback on the drafts of their research-based essays. We decided that it was a comprehensive way for me to quickly inform them whether their writing was clear and factual on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis (They’re only turning in the three [...]
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” E.M. Forster once said.
Right. I’ve got to see it. Sometimes I have an idea, occasionally. Most of them aren’t very good but every once in a while I’ll get one I like. But the idea is always out of focus. The way for me to get it into focus is to write. I don’t know what the thought is, how it fits beside other thoughts, until the act of writing allows me to try to make sense of it.
When we’re in the final stages of a manuscript we need to be analytical but at first we have to get words, lots of words, on paper. So for me the drafting stage (those usually three misshapen and embarrassing attempts at a true draft) should rely on intuition more. I don’t mean that you don’t worry, think, consider, struggle with choices, use all the skills you have, but that you do your best to get to that altered state writing requires and BE THERE in the manuscript. What happens should flow from your experiencing the world through your characters, a more sensual than intellectual experience. Again, be there in the scene and your being there will help you know what to put in and what to leave out and where to go with the story.
Probably as you revise the manuscript, after drafting, you’ll need to be more analytical about the story. But you will still need to enter that altered state in places and BE THERE in order to make the scenes work once you’ve decided they belong. So these revisions, however many they are (I remember reading an interview with Hemingway where he said he rewrote the ending of one of his novels thirty times), will be some combination of analysis in both big picture and details and working locally in that altered, intuitive state. If you’re like me, you’ll probably rewrite certain parts five or ten times and others only a few. At any rate, you’ll go over the whole manuscript many, many times for language etc..
When you’re doing the final runs, that’s when you need to be analytical. You need to rely more on assessment rather than intuition though you’ll still, no doubt, be fiddling with the language. I always am. Making good sentences is a burden and joy.
So someone is suing Ms. Rowling for a billion dollars (or some other ridiculous amount) again because they think, 'The Goblet of Fire' rips off some unknown book from the 1990s. That and a line in my current WIP made me wonder if we'll see more of these claims now that so many writers are blogging excerpts from their WIPs - obviously, I don't mean the wonderful people who visit my blog because we're all sane. Well most of us are and those who aren't, well you know who you are. Okay, must stop looking at myself in the mirror, anyway...
I read a line on an LJ blog a week or so ago and I thought, 'not bad' and a few people commented on this person's rather cool line/idea. Cue a few days later, while redrafting Grim Glass Vein, I read a similar line (not the same words but running along the same theme) in the second draft. Now, I am the sort of person who worries about things that most (rational) people would ignore. So, I went into a spin as to whether I should remove this line - after all, it's one sentence - but it is kind of pivotal to the story line and it's good and well, I came by it honestly about three to six months (the previous draft was composed sometime between Aug 09 and Nov 09) before reading this other person's line. The crux is though, prove it...
And thus, I worry.
*The wardens shouldn't unlock my cell door and let my thoughts escape, but I pay them very well. **Thank goodness I'll never make squillions and no one will ever want to sue me. Oops, shouldn't really tempt the gods, my bad.
When I was first learning about Writing Workshop, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around the process each student would be going through. I spent a lot of time thinking and re-thinking the writing process and the way it would become individualized. Going from idea to notebook to draft to publication seemed [...]
I appreciate that you don't 'do' perfection and that your purpose is to get the story down on paper regardless of pretty words or sensible sentences. But leading someone into a lair (I know it's an undertakers, but seriously!!!) and following it by having a character say our MC has a 'similar, vicious soul' to the big bad of the book when she quite clearly doesn't and never did have. I think I just vomited... Or rather, you did.
Your 'sixteenth chapter' sucks big time.
PS On second thoughts, the kisses are removed.
Dear Second Draft in Progress,
You know removing 'lair' and 'vicious soul' is okay, but you really haven't got to grips with what's happening in this scene. It's all blah-blah-BeingDeathisPoop-blah-ScaryManDoesn'tUnderstandMe-Blah-IDon'tUnderstandMe-SeveralMoreParagraphsofBlah.
I have been in a lot of different writing workshops lately. Just this week I’ve been in 13 writing workshops and have met with 13 different teachers in either reflective practice meetings or planning meetings. Therefore, I have SO MUCH I want to record. Which leads me to my current dilemma: what do I not [...]
Today I found myself understanding the writing process more deeply. Primary writers work through the writing process by layering each phase on a single copy of their writing. They plan a story across pages, first touching each page and telling the story, then sketching. They draft by adding words to the pictures. They revise by going [...]
If you are a regular reader, you know a lot of my thinking lately has been about writing process, and specifically nudging third grade writers into more traditional drafts. Today’s post is a collection of my thoughts about drafting. I hope it is applicable to a range of writers — not a specific grade level. [...]
It was one of those days where writing workshop just felt good. Here’s a little recap of the highlights. First thing this morning, I implemented the things I’m learning from Martha Horn from listening to her speak and from reading her book, Talking, Drawing, Writing, which she wrote with Mary Ellen Giacobbe. Writing workshop was [...]
When students move from their notebook to draft, I encourage them to write their best first draft. (Click here to see other posts I’ve written about best first drafts.) Something that I’m always… Read More →
My comments about a student’s memoir (draft one)
Originally uploaded by teachergal
This is the other way I respond to my students’ drafts for all assignments. I always attach a short narrative with my thinking about their writing. It’s almost like having a mini-conference (except [...]
My students’ first drafts (of their memoirs) are filled with truth and emotion. I started reading them yesterday during Workshop time since some of the kids went home and completed them for homework. Then, I read some last night and began again this evening. Though I cannot scan them and post them [...]
Poetry is one of my favorite genres to teach. I simply love the way the genre empowers ALL kids to have success with their words. (Quite frankly, I wish I could teach it in November, right before personal essay, but for some reason it never happens that way! Making it the last [...]
In Keith Bollman’s fifth grade class, students are beginning to consider moving into drafts. They’ve envisioned their writing and are moving out of the rehearsal stage and into drafting. Today I taught them how to stretch a scene. The Great Pumpkin Switch by Megan Mcdonald and Ted Lewin is one of the texts in play in the [...]