Since I left my library job about a year and a half ago, I’ve struggled a little with finding myself again. I’ve gone through several stages since then, and now see myself emerging from who I tried to be… into who I truly am. I feel like I’ve been in a cocoon a good part of my life and now it’s time to fly. I am a later bloomer. But better late than not at all, right?
So here I am, writing story after story. They are pouring out of me like there is no tomorrow, and I mean that. I’ve become a true writer, devoting much of my time to children’s story writing. I go to bed thinking up ideas and I wake up with more.
I’m very much into beginning reader books right now. I feel like I’ve found a place where I should be, at least for now. I enjoy it. I think I have a knack for it. In my mind, I can hear children reading the words, as early readers do, and liking them. Words tumble inside my head constantly, finding their place at last in simple sentences, phonograms, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and finally… plot and closure. I strive to meet the Common Core State Standards, too, so as you can see, there’s a lot going on while writing for children. And I love, love, love it!
I’m also attempting 1st grade mysteries. Simple is the key. Try writing a simple mystery at 1st grade level. It’s a little confining, but seriously, it can be done! I’m enjoying the challenge and hoping a publisher will like my work. I also have a few campfire stories written in 1st grade level with a different twist. I’m not sure how they’ll go over, but it’s worth a try.
To date, I’ve 28 manuscripts sent to book and magazine publishers. I have several more stories in the edit stage and more in my head, wiggling to get out! I don’t just write a story, throw together a cover letter and send it out. I go over and over my work, including cover letters. Everyday I read what I have written, and more times than not, I end up changing something. Polish! Polish! Polish!
It’s all worth it to me.
“Don’t even try out,” the skinny boy said, pushing his bangs out of his eyes. “You don’t have any past experience. Too-bad-so-sad.”
“But I’m good,” Fiona said. “I know I’m good. You won’t regret it, I promise. Just let me prove it. Please?”
“You’re outta luck,” he said while jogging away from her. “Go play with your dolls.”
“So how do I get experience?” she asked, but the boy was already out of ear shot, most likely looking for kids who were lucky enough to have already had experience. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair.
Now it was time for Plan B.
This morning the sky is a crisp blue as the leaves on the trees struggle to stay green. The colors seem sharper than usual, like when I edit my photos in Picasa 3. Auto Contrast makes everything appear rich and clearer.
Which makes me think about words. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use the Auto Contrast option in our writing? Boring paragraphs would suddenly shift to sharp and clear sentences, words that are easy to visualize, easy to absorb, and hard to forget.
But since we don’t have that option, we can learn to sharpen our vocabulary on our own. I’m not talking big words. I’m talking… Descriptive. Visual. Words that open one’s senses to touch, taste, sound, sight, and smells.
If I read about a character eating a cheeseburger, I want to taste that cheeseburger. I want to put my book down and fry up that cheeseburger because the author’s words made me hungry!
If I read about sunshine as it’s raining outside my window, I want to feel that sun on my face. I want to close my eyes and experience the sharp rays of heat on my skin.
That’s what words should do. That’s what writers should strive for. Since we can’t Auto Contrast, we edit. And edit. And edit. Make your words shine.
So guess what I’m going to do this week?
Recently, I have been challenged to write beginning reader books for kindergartners. Easy, right? Easy, no! If you write for children, you know it’s not as easy as it seems. And writing for beginning readers is extremely word-limited.
My trusty Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogliner, is a must-have! It includes word lists for grades K – 6 plus a thesaurus with the grade level in parentheses for each word. She also gives sound advice on social changes, classroom themes, and publishing tips per each grade level, along with writing samples. I highly recommend this book, especially to those of you who are writing for early readers.
Try writing a story at a kindergarten level using only the words provided in that list. Yes, you can do it. But this writing style comparable to the Dick and Jane books leaves out many details. Just remember, though, the illustrator can fill in where the limitation of words cannot.
Have you ever read a book to your child, student, or grandchild and thought, “I could’ve written that!” I will admit I have. But once you get started and figure out the rules to what makes a story publishable for that age level, you might think again. It’s not nearly as easy as it seems. Pay attention. Browse through similar books at the book store or your library. Word count is minimal, too. Try writing a story with a 150 word limit. It’s a great writing exercise, actually!
Once again, I’d really like to recommend the Children’s Writer’s Word Book. It will make a difference.
As always… Keep on writing!
She awoke to the alarm. But wait, she didn’t have an alarm! Squinting her eyes toward her nightstand, she froze. There stood the smallest person she’d ever seen! “Hi,” the skinny, red-headed boy said. “I’m here to help you write a story… with me as the main character, by the way.” He winked and blew a bubble with his gum.