Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Those of you following me on Twitter or Facebook have recently been drowning in a deluge of quotes from Stephen King. My propensity to share the words of this man with my writer friends stems from my current submersion into his memoir of the craft of writing. Let me explain why I am so late to the game.
I grew up in a very protective religious environment. In an attempt to protect me from the evil of the world, indulgence in or association with anything that resembled evil was forbidden. I am not besmirching my parents by any stretch of the imagination. They encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Yet, this upbringing prevented me from experiencing the fullness of King’s writing prowess.
Recently, while researching sources for inspiration regarding writing tips for my blog, I came across Jane Friedman’s Top Ten Books on Writing. The one with the most reviews was On Writing by Stephen King and I had never read it. Hoping to remedy this as quickly as possible, I ordered a copy and anxiously awaited my date with corruption.
In this book, I have discovered a treasure trove hidden beneath my nose for so many years. Each page compels me to and yet I refrain from tweeting every other sentence. I have already experienced inspirational tales of personal writing lore and insight that rekindles a return to foundations forgotten and an avidity to write ceaselessly. Although I am only half way through my voracious consumption of the mind of King, I quell an urge to rush to the Paris stock exchange to purchase as many shares of Bic Highlighters as I can afford.
I implore the tribunal of King aficionados for patience. Everyone else join me in my primordial journey into the writing mind of a 350 million book bestselling author.
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Monday, December 14, 2009
I have determined that reading and writing late at night is the best time for me. Everyone else is asleep. It is so quiet; I can hear the air wheezing through dust- riddled vents in the ceiling. There are no children tugging at my shirt. My wife has given up her quest to enlist my involvement in the completion of household chores. I can focus all of my energies on the transference of the words dancing in my head to the digital dance floor before me.
The best place for me to write is in my Lazy Boy. I extend the leg rest and push back until the maximum point of reclination is reached. I prop my knees up to position the laptop keyboard to be readily available to my finger tips. This may sound cumbersome, but it works for me. You might be different. Comfort is most important. It will be hard to focus if you have to adjust your position in a search for comfort.
Setting a daily goal is as important as determining a place and time. Some people set a goal to write a certain number of words each day. I find that setting a chronological goal works best for me. I set a goal to write for at least one hour each day. Some days I am able to write more words during that hour than others. Whatever strategy works best for you is fine. Contact me for a free consultation. 918-394-2665
Friday, December 11, 2009
Writing in general can be a tough business; writing for children is even tougher. Writing for children has its own unique tricks, processes, and rules; one of those rules is using words that are age appropriate.
How this differs from writing in general is that the children's writing arena is divided into specific age groups. There are picture books and rebus stories for the very young child. The story line and text are simple; they need to tell a story including basic conflict and action, but they are geared toward the comprehension of young children.
Next comes early readers. Again, the words used and plot are relatively simple to help the child learn to read. The next genre is chapter books. Here the plot and words grow just like the child has. The story can be more involved and geared to hold the child's attention with mild mystery, suspense, and fantasy.
Then it's on to middle grade. At this point, the child has grown and has greater comprehension and vocabulary, so should the stories for them. The plot and conflict can be more complex than the earlier chapter books.
Finally, it's on to young adult. This genre's stories can be sophisticated and involved enough to attract adult readership. But, it obviously should still be written avoiding hard core subject matter. While it can deal with just about all topics, it should be void explicit adult context. Writing for adults is simpler; the writer usually writes with the vocabulary he/she is use to.
The question is: How does a writer know which words are specific to a particular age group? Unless you are an experienced writer and have become very familiar with the different age group vocabularies, you will need help in this area.
Three Sources/Tools for Finding Age Appropriate Words
1. A source that I've found very useful is Children's Writers Word Book, 2nd Edition, by Alijandra Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner. It lists specific words that are introduced at seven key reading levels (kindergarten through sixth grade). It provides a thesaurus of those words with synonyms, annotated with reading levels. In addition, it offers detailed guidelines for sentence length, word usage, and themes at each reading level. I find it a valuable tool in my writing toolbelt.
2. Another great source is Intervention Central ( http://www.interventioncentral.org/htmdocs/tools/okapi/okapi.php ) which utilizes Spache and Dale formulas. This is an amazing site that allows you to input up to 200 words, choose a readability formula (what grade level you are writing for), and click for the results. The program, OKAPI (an internet application for creating curriculum-based assessment reading probes) will return a readability analysis of your text, indicating what grade level the particular content is appropriate for.
3. Next is Englishraven.com ( http://www.englishraven.com/ttools_dolch.html ). This site provides Dolch (sight word listed for frequency and importance) wordlists for each grade level. The lists are limited, but it does give a good indication of appropriate words for the particular age group you are writing for.
All three of these resources are useful in finding just the right words for the children's writer. There are also other books and sites available that will help you in your search for those age appropriate words for your children's book, just do a search.
If you need hands-on help, DKV Writing 4 U ( http://dkvwriting4u.com ) is a writing service that is professional and affordable. It offers guidance, proofreading, basic editing, and critiquing of your children's manuscript. It also provides two FREE e-books, Writing, Publishing, and Marketing - You Can Do It! and Power of Article Marketing, just for subscribing. There's also a gift just for visiting! The free gifts change periodically.