This week's tip comes to you courtesy of children's author, Tricia Springstubb. Tricia's books, MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND and IT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET have garnered starred reviews from The Horn Book and Kirkus and have been Best Books of the Year selections. IOW, she really knows her stuff. On her website, Tricia says something about writing I really love: "For me, writing is like a window–every day I look out and discover something new." Which in my mind makes her the perfect person to give us this week's Writing Tip of the day.
One of the things I tried hard to do in both WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET and MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND was create settings so vivid they became characters in themselves. How to evoke a sense of place is as difficult to pin down as creating a true voice, yet once you’ve got it, shazam.
Writing is all about the details you choose and those you leave out. If you’ve ever peeked over the shoulders of students in a painting class, you know that every artist comes up with his own take on the model or still life. It’s in the colors, the brushstrokes, the shadow and line he chooses. In the same way, a story’s setting can become one with its themes and emotional truths. Readers can tell that Fox Street is a down-on-its-heels place, but Mo only chooses to report on its many delights, and her love of home infuses the novel. Once she moves away, her new neighborhood’s confusing maze of streets reflects her own feelings of being lost.
I’m not talking about long descriptive passages, the kind kids always skip. Instead, place should infuse the whole work, becoming what Eudora Welty called “the light that glows inside the story.” Welty, by the way, is a sublime writer, worthy of study, as is Dan Chaon, whose Midwest will haunt you long after you finish one of his novels. Other wonderful writers who are masters of setting include National Book Award nominee Kathi Appelt and Newbery winning Susan Petrone. For a searing and unforgettable novel where theme and setting seamlessly blend, try A SWIFT PURE CRY by Siobhan Dowd.
Right now I’m working on a novel set on a Lake Erie island. On my desk is a chunk of limestone I brought back from a visit there. Stone and water—those are the elements of my story. Whenever I get stuck, I pick up that rock and feel its rough weight in my hand. It helps me figure out just what comes next.
Writing for Younger Readers (The Other Side of the Story) Examples/real life diagnostics
Gratitude for Writers (Spilling Ink) Very Nice. What are you grateful for?
When does a writer become a writer? (The Atlantic) You are a writer if you write...
Zen and the art of withholding information (Beyond the Margins) Strategies for showing it all.
15 Tips for writing Murder Mysteries (Writers in the storm)
13 Ways of Beginning a Novel (Beyond the Margins) Stuck? Excellent ideas to start the story.
11 FAQ about Book Royalties, Advances & Money (Writer Unboxed) Good info, but write first!
11 Ways to Improve your Writing (Soul of a Word)
10 Tips for Better Dialog (Bryan Thomas Schmidt)
7 Things to Remember when Writing for YA (Fresh News Daily)
6 Common Backstory Pitfalls (Chatterbox Chitchat)
5 Ways to Stay Motivated while writing your novel (Nathan Bransford)
5 D's of the Dark Moment (Left and Write Brained)
5 Writing Tips the Grinch Stole (Fiction Notes) Love.
5 Online Distraction-busters for Writers (Write it Sideways)
4 Ways to Save a Stalled Story (The Other Side of the Story)
Query Notes (jereidliterary) Good writing trumps form almost every time.
Why Moving on is a Good Tactic (Mystery Writing is Murder)
Book Beginnings and Other Lessons (Life, Words, and Rock & Roll) Stephanie Kuehnert
Stimulus and Response - the Writer's Path through Story (Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing)
Writing Advice (The Katacomb) Why she tried it all.
Disney Parents (Dead and Absent) (Fantasy Fiction) How to use them to further your story
Life Cycle of a Book (SCBWI Blog) Begins and ends with the author.
Checklist for Deep POV (1st or 3rd person) (TalkToYoUniverse) Excellent!
The Kernel Idea (Write if Forward) Getting the core of your idea down.
How to keep a literary novel afloat in the middle (Laura Pauling)
Story Climax - the whole point (Jami Gold) Excellent.
Inspiration vs Perspiration (Writers in the Storm)
Writing Happiness (Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing) How to love where you are on the journey
Character Beauty in Imperfection (Writability) Excellent.
No Perfect Characters Wanted (Editor's Blog) Good characters have flaws.
Do readers see your characters the way you want them to? (WordPlay) Common mistakes
Your Inner Bad Guy (Beyond the Margins) Going there may be uncomfortable, but fruitful.
Chekhov's Gag (TV Tropes) Tropes for writing humor.
What you have to unlearn to be a writer (James Killick) So good.
Facing the Blinking Cursor (Magical Words) What to do.
And finally, an excellent one to end this long link list with:
Drop Everything and Write! (Between the Margins) Starting... Now!
Now go. Drop everything! WRITE!