I love stories. — Stories about boys on the Mississippi and girls on the prairie. About pirates and hobbits and musketeers. Even a special one about a spider and a pig. I grew up reading stories like these. But I found that there were other stories that I liked but they hadn’t been written yet. Because they were my stories.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in about fifth grade and I’ve always enjoyed hearing, writing, or reading a good story. But when my first child was born, I decided to get serious about writing. I found that it’s easy to say you want to write a book. It’s a little more challenging to actually start one and even more challenging to finish it. But over time I let the story simmer and made time for the work and the joy of writing.
Telling a story can be work but it is a joyful experience. When my children were little and I would sit on their beds to say goodnight, instead of just wishing each other pleasant dreams we would give “dream presents”.
A dream present is the beginning of a very exciting, adventurous dream with a cliffhanger ending. Just when the story got really good, the storyteller would say, “Now, you’ll have to dream the rest.”
I love the spark of a good story and the writing is simply dreaming the rest.
Good writing starts with good reading. And remember, variety is good. Read anything and everything from historical to contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales. Learn from everything you read; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of course it’s best to gravitate towards wonderful writing. The classics are called classics for a reason. But if you come across a book that’s not written so well, learn from that too.
To be a writer this part is not optional. Yes, certain preliminary choices must be made. Pen or pencil. Computer or paper. Times New Roman or Courier. Window open or shut. Hot tea or iced. Plain M & M’s or peanut. But eventually, it’s a matter of sitting still and putting words on the page. Keep writing until the story is finished. Then write some more.
Daydream, ponder, wonder. Let your mind take you to places and stories unknown. The imagination works best when the T.V. and computer are off.
Kids know what adults sometimes forget. Playing is important and is part of the way we learn. Whether you play with others or by yourself, whether you’re a child or an adult, and especially if you want to be a writer, maintaining a playful spirit is important. Play involves pretending, imagining, and creating. Even card games and board games include important skills for writing such as problem solving, deductive reasoning, strategizing. All work and no play makes anyone dull. Playing will invigorate your mind and body. Plus it’s fun!
Notice the people and details that might go unnoticed. The woman at the store who says everything like a question. The girl at the next table over who eats lunch with gum in her mouth. The man who takes his dog for two walks a day. But one day walks by without the dog. Keeping your eyes and ears open will go a long way toward creating real characters, detailed description, and true voice.
When I think of unique voices in writing I think of Mark Twain, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss. But what if Dr. Seuss tried to sound like Shakespeare. Forsooth, I doth not like Green Eggs and Ham. Anon, I wilst not eat them in a box, I shall not eat them with a fox. Or what if Mark Twain tried to imitate Jane Austen. Yikes! That is such a clash I can’t even imagine it, other than it would involve Tom and Huck going to a ball and dancing to a lively minuet. Find your voice and let it guide your writing.