January 14, 2011

Learning from the Masters

I don't know about you, but I've read many books on how to write and I've attended many workshops held by talented authors. There's always a personal snippet of information that I hold onto and try and work with.

Here are a few that have been cemented into my brain.

Roald Dahl
You must have trouble on a grand scale!
When writing your characters exaggerate all of their good and bad qualities. If they are ugly make them very ugly, if they are naughty, make them really naughty.
Sometimes less words is better, brevity should be our goal.

Janet Evanovich
Here's the thing about first drafts. They really are a gift to a writer.
Having the chance to go over things frees you to play with your characters, your setting, your word choices, your sentence structure, even your plot.
(How I Write, Janet Evanovich)

Hazel Edwards
Read twice, once as a reader and next as a writer to observe the technicalities of characterisation, humour, etc.
(The Australian Writer, Issue#358, Hazel Edwards)

Mem Fox
Books for young children are usually short. Young children themselves are usually short. This leads to the assumption that children have small brains and writing for them is easy. The reverse is true. Young children have large, active brains, and writing them for them is enormously difficult.
It is even more difficult than writing for adults since only the best is good enough for children- the best words in the best places, and the best characters in the best stories.
(So you want to write a picture book, Mem Fox)

Alexander Gordon Smith
Pin down the theme. Remember the theme must be shown not told. The theme is like the cement that keeps the story together. The idea and the theme are different.
The theme can be shown through the characters feeling and emotions. By the end if the book your character will have grown or learned a lesson which makes him stronger.
(Writing Bestselling Children's Books, Alexander Gordon Smith)

Narelle Oliver
Yet, a lot of things in life, doing something that looks simple is not always as easy as it first appears. In fact, my belief s that writing (and/or illustrating) a children's picture book requires as high a level of obsession and commitment to re-structuring, re-working, and word-by-word edit editing as any piece of writing, and that really good and original ideas for picture books don't come along all that often.
('So, you're going to write a kids' picture book...,' Narelle Oliver)

Jackie French
Writing for kids. Why on earth do you want to do it?
If the answer is that you've dreamt of seeing a book with your name on the title page, and books are nice SHORT things, then consider writing a joke book instead.
The shorter a book is the more finely crafted it has to be. Consider the many fine writers for adults that have written a book for kids that has dropped out of sight. No, writing for kids is not the easy option.
(Writing for Children, Jackie French)

As you can see, with every book and workshop, I have found a sentence, paragraph, or statement that resonates with me and changes the way I write. They not only share their writing secrets, and how to fine tune my craft, but give me hope and inspiration to fulfil my own writing dreams!

I'll leave you with a quote from the master children's writer himself... Roald Dahl

'So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install,
A lovely bookshelf on the wall!
Roald Dahl


Anonymous said...

great post. good to pick up and hold on to the tips that resonate with you.

Unknown said...

Thanks Michelle! There's so many brilliant authors that give advice at workshops or on the internet. At the moment I'm reading Stephen King's book, 'On Writing.' It's fascinating to learn all about how he came to write.

BookChook said...

I love these but have to admit that what Mem says resonates the most with me. Writing for children well IS enormously difficult - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Unknown said...

I agree Book Chook. I like it when authors are honest and tell it how it is. There's a wealth of information on the internet. I always look up picture book authors if I find a particular book that I like. I usually find that I recognise other books that they've written. Then I'll go through their website and hunt for valuable writing tips.