For this month’s post I’ve decided to address a few writing questions that I often hear from kids during my school visits.
Tip # 11: A Few Writing Strategies
Question: How do you create your characters?
Answer: My characters are bits and pieces or many different people (former students, teachers, coaches, friends, enemies, my wife, my children, bus driver, etc.), bits and pieces of me, and my imagination all glued together.
I don’t necessarily know everything about my character (or my story) when I start, but as I write my character continues to end up in new situations and then I always have to ask, “Why? Why are you going to do this? Say this? Feel this? React this way?” As I get answers to those questions I learn more and more about my character. When I finally get to the end of the story I know my character better and I’m ready to go back and revise!
Question: What do you do if you have an idea but don’t know where to start?
Answer: Start anywhere, but start—that’s the key. It doesn’t have to be the beginning. If you worry about having everything figured out and making it perfect the first time, then you’re setting yourself up for writer’s block. It’s never perfect the first time, so just get started. Many times I learn more about my story and characters by doing the writing than by sitting and thinking about it. Revising is the part of the process that’s about trying to make your writing the best. So just get started anywhere.
Question: What do you do if you get stuck in the middle?
Answer: I have two strategies: (1) Leave the part where you are stuck and jump ahead to a different section (maybe the ending) and start writing that. As you continue to work and craft sentences ideas will evolve and you might suddenly figure out what needs to happen in the middle, or (2) Share what you have. Read your piece aloud to someone and then wait and listen to what they say about it. What questions do they ask? This conversation should help spark more ideas. If you have questions you want to ask your reader, then you should ask them after they are done talking.
This type of focused and purposeful sharing is just as important as everything else that makes up the writing process, so I intend to devote next month’s teaching tip to this topic.
I’d love to hear from you if you find Mr. Terupt’s tips helpful or if you have additional thoughts or questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit me at robbuyea.com. Follow me on twitter @robbuyea. Look for tip #12 to be posted in June .