Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing 101

Tip of the day: Happy May Day! When you were younger, did you leave flowers on a porch, ring the door bell, and run? I used to do that and it was SO fun! I wish a kid would do that to me today, I would love seeing a little bunch of flowers on my doorstep.

Lately I’ve been getting a LOT of e-mails from teens wanting writing advice. So I thought I would use this as an opportunity to post some thoughts on this very broad, and very BIG, topic, and perhaps I can just refer them to this post as I need to!

Sometimes the person asking for advice will say something like, “I really want to write, I just don’t know how to get started.”

Lots and lots of people *talk* about wanting to write a book. I think I read a statistic that said 97% of people in the US have thought about writing a book at one time. The number of people who actually DO it, however, is much, MUCH smaller. And perhaps it is because it seems so overwhelming – like running a marathon is to non-runners, probably.

And so, if we compare this to running a marathon, you wouldn’t necessarily wake up and decide to run a marathon with no training. Instead, you’d go to the track, and maybe start out doing a mile, if you could, right? So why not start small with the writing too? Try a writing prompt, or simply write about your main character and get to know him/her. One easy and fun thing to do is to write your main character a letter, and then write a letter back to yourself as your character. See what she says!

As far as writing prompts, here’s a website I found that has hundreds of writing prompts: . Move your mouse around the screen and look at all the different ideas you can find!

Sometimes, a writing prompt can turn into something bigger. And that’s great! Go with it. If not, that’s okay too. Writing is like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get. So write, write, write. every day, write something.

When you really feel ready to write a novel, you’ll need a big, novel (ha!) idea. This is not always easy for me, so I know it can be difficult to think of something you could write an entire book about. So, as I’ve suggested before, keep a journal, and write down thoughts and ideas about things and places and people you like. Maybe you LOVE dogs. Maybe you are especially crazy about cocker spaniels. Write it down. Think about a place you love. The beach? Write it down. Just keep writing things down and then, see if you can piece them together to make a story.

A good, simple formula is to ask yourself what your character wants and what is standing in her way. A story will contain characters that seem like real people. They’ll have likes and dislikes, a certain voice, a certain style. Play around until you find the right character to tell the story you want to tell. Then take us on a journey and let us see the character struggle to get what she wants.

Here are some great writing books to check out:


Happy writing!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


DeenaML said...

I will also send teens to this post who want to know how to start. Thanks, Lisa!

Christina Farley said...

I loved Writing the Breakout Novel. I got the workbook too. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with the advice giving!

Harvey said...


Great article! Here's a tip for finding novel ideas. Firstly, think of something you really want badly. Now build a character who shares that desire with you (it need only be a sketch at this stage). Finally, think of ways in which it won't be easy for them to get what they want. And there you have it: the seed of a novel!

Emily Marshall said...

Love this advice Lisa. Very well said :)