Monday, January 8, 2018

Of Chances and Challenges and New Beginnings

Here’s to the 365 chances this brand new year 2018 gifts us to honor and complete the challenges we’ve honestly and bravely identified!
[Note: Be sure to RE-read the above A Favorite Design, Inc. greeting card’s small print often: “Improvement not guaranteed, but achievable when used in conjunction with a positive attitude.”]

And here’s to our TeachingAuthors Book Giveaway of the 2018 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET! If you haven’t already entered, be sure to check out the instructions at the end of this post.

Thanks to all who’ve already shared their New Year’s challenges.  The oft-repeated verbs in the posted comments say it all:

flesh out

Verbs, E.B. White reminded us, drive the sentence, in much the same way our chosen verbs drive our Writer’s Plotlines. They get us up close, then through, then over, then past what’s standing in our way.

No matter the year, my teacher’s challenge, my Writing Coach challenge, is to keep my writers keepin’ on!
When it comes to protecting and sustaining the writer’s Spirit, resources, opportunities, possibilities abound.  Indeed, they’re limitless.
When it comes to the writer’s telling his story in words to young readers, however?
Identifying the “something” in a story that needs to work better – the format, the narrator viewpoint, the word choice, for example – that’s easy.
Figuring out the purposeful, concrete and doable Next Steps that offer a writer a way to address that “something” -  not so much.

So I’m always on the look-out, now and forever, for new exercises that help
ensure my students and writers tell their stories the best way possible.
Alice LaPlante’s THE MAKING OF A STORY (W.W. Norton, 2007), which came highly recommended by a Writing Coach who works with adult novelists, has grown my stash immeasurably.
Think: a 677-page one-stop guide to the art of fiction and nonfiction, covering “inspiration, craft, aesthetics and purpose” and offering expertise, exercises and examples aplenty.

The Exercises on Revision included in the chapter “Learning to Fail Better” offer all sorts of delicious Next Steps possibilities.
Some of the Analytical/Mechanical exercises are tried and true:  highlight all forms of “to have” and “to be,” then replace them with active verbs; retype your story so that each word might spark a new idea.
Many of the Creative Exercises were familiar: change the point of view and rewrite the story; change the tense (from past to present or vice versa).
I’ve used many of the Research-Based Exercises: research the kind of music that would have been playing on the radio at the time the piece is set; research five recipes that the people in the story or nonfiction piece were eating.

It was the Chance-Based Exercises that raised my eyebrows. Suddenly I was adding new Next Steps to my Bag of Tricks.

Take a walk around the block.  Make whatever happens (or doesn’t happen), or whatever you observe, the basis for a free write that you can include in your piece.
Make a list of all the things that happened to you this week that surprise you.  Do a free write on one of them that might be relevant to your piece.

                                                    (A Favorite Design, Inc.)

Hopefully the above exercises will serve as “helping verbs” of a sort, not in the true sense of the word, but instead in the sense they are helping you take a chance to ACTualize your own chosen challenge verbs.

Here’s to a year of Hope and New Beginnings and successful Next Steps on your Writer’s Journey!

Esther Hershenhorn
I’ll be sharing my ever-growing stash of Next Steps with writers this July as I’m again honored to continue Barbara Seuling’s Manuscript Workshop in Landgrove, VT. 

And now, click HERE to read how easy it is to win a free copy of  the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.


Mary Ann Rodman said...

Great post, Esther. I love your suggestions for bringing something new to your writing. After teaching so many years, you think there is nothing new under the sun in the way of writing exercises. Wrong! I need to find a copy of the aforementioned book. An inspiring post on an ice grey day, when National College Football Game Madness confines me to the house!

Mary Ann Rodman said...

P.S. I just picked up my held mail from the holidays...the Making of a Story was on the top of the pile. Having a senior/holiday moment.

Linda B said...

I'm catching up on posts, Esther, and just read this. What an inspiring start to the new year. Just a few tips you gave will be helpful. Thanks! And Happy New Year!

April Halprin Wayland said...

As Mary Ann said, there are always more writing exercises. Thanks, as always for diving down deep and sharing the jewels with us, Esther!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks, Linda B. and April, for stopping by.
I'm always eager to share any and all "jewels" that will keep us keepin' on!

Bobbi Miller said...

This sounds like a wonderful must have, The Making of a Story, and interesting chance-based exercises. Thank you!!! ❤