By Angela Dell’Isola
By a virtual show of hands: when I say “world-building,” how many of you immediately think of Tolkien? Or George R.R. Martin? J.K. Rowling?
The term tends to be heavily linked to fantasy and science fiction, because it often implies building something from scratch: producing maps; coining new words, phrases, or languages (back to you, Tolkien!); and constructing full-fledged structures for the governments, economies, and social frameworks of their alternate realities.
This is one approach to world-building, and it’s yielded some pretty fantastic (see what I did there?) results. But is it the only approach? I don’t think so, and it’s not exclusive to fantasy and science fiction. World-building can be an important tool across all shelves, and it doesn’t need to be a 20,000-league dive. Cue “minimalist world-building.” It sounds like a total oxymoron, I know. Continue reading
In Rita Williams-Garcia’s middle grade novel Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, the sudden loss of a beloved grandfather, a disconnect between mother and son, and the young protagonist’s desire to become a Blues musician collide. By studying Williams-Garcia’s novel, writers can examine how to write sound and musical imagery, how to weave adult relationships and points of view into a middle grade novel, and how to use secondary or ancillary characters to create conflict, mood, tension and setting.
Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Williams-Garcia’s methods.
by Heather Kelly, Founder, The Writers’ Loft
As writers, it can be hard to take ourselves seriously. We write during the in-between times—when the house is quiet because no one else is awake, before and after our day job, and in the car waiting for a child to finish their school day. It can feel like writing is an aside, the first thing to ditch when real life rears its ugly head.
Taking our writing—and ourselves—seriously is the most important step toward success.
By doing something that might seem counterintuitive.
We drive more effectively toward our goal, and take ourselves more seriously, when we treat our writing like it’s a game. Continue reading
by Allison Pottern Hoch
It’s the beginning of the year and everything feels fresh and possible. Whether you’re still chipping away at a work-in-progress, starting something new, or staring down the lane at future publication dates, your writing life lies open before you.
But the wide-open possibility of an entire year doesn’t always jibe with reality—work, deadlines, kids, travel, housekeeping, health, pets. What has worked for me is mapping out a mix of fixed and flexible goals. This helps me have plan, self-motivate, and stay nimble as new opportunities present themselves. Continue reading
discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey
Erika L. Sanchez’s novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a first-person narrative of a teenage girl struggling with her sister’s death, her parents’ disapproval, and ultimately with depression and attempted suicide. By studying Sanchez’s novel, writers can explore managing a depressed and potentially unlikeable main character, the balance of dialogue to narrative text, and the tools writers use to create tone in their novels. Continue reading
by Kelly Carey
(Note: a version of this article appeared previously on Kelly’s blog, 24 Carrot Writing).
Give your writing self the gift of encouragement.
This summer, I took a class at The Writers’ Loft taught by Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss. At the end of class, Karen asked us to write ourselves letters. The letters were an opportunity to chat about our writing hopes, dreams, and goals. Karen collected the letters and tucked them away. Five months later my letter appeared in my mailbox, and it was the most wonderful gift. Continue reading
by Dave Pasquantonio
Sometimes the words come easily—and sometimes they don’t. We writers know exactly what it feels like to want to write more, to want to write faster, but the muse is not cooperating.
But we can’t always blame the muse. There are actions we writers can take to make the words flow faster.
Anna Staniszewski led a recent craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, “Write Faster—Write More!” She gave the enthusiastic attendees exactly what they were looking for—methods and insights to help us get those words out. Continue reading