You Mean Little Old Me? 14 Secrets of Writing Revealed

One lesson coming home to me more clearly every day is the importance of developing and nurturing a strong support system of other writers, to learn from their vast pool of experience and knowledge.

It’s pretty exciting to hear myself say, “I’m an author!” while I hand someone my business card. Can it actually be true? Who gave me such an illustrious title, anyway? Maybe it happened once I printed the cards; in any event it crept up on me. But I like it, it’s new, and it’s fun. I think.

I began writing for pure recreation, and to fill my retirement. It should still be fun!

Now, however, the question has been raised about a writer’s responsibilities, and that has sent my brain into a sort of frenzied overdrive. And dimly, as if emerging through the mist on the edge of a forest, some sobering facts are coming into focus. I do take my writing seriously, and I do take responsibility for what I write! I admit that came as a revelation of sorts, and to describe those duties and obligations throws me another challenge, but it’s one that I wish to embark upon, even if only for my own satisfaction.

One lesson coming home to me more clearly every day is the importance of developing and nurturing a strong support system of other writers, to learn from their vast pool of experience and knowledge. I’ve found a real gold mine in RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB. This group, often seen in social media as #RRBC, has the largest membership, most impressive management and varied activities of any similar groups or organizations I’ve come across to date. This is the website where you can sign up: Click Here

As for the responsibilities of authors, the FIRST thought that springs to mind is that a writer must capture the reader’s interest from the first sentence, or at least the first page. SECONDLY, the plot needs to develop with enough speed to stay fascinating, but not so quickly as to lose a poor hapless reader’s grasp of what is happening.

THIRD item, and none of this is necessarily in order of importance, every book has to be believable. That applies even to the wildest fantasy; your readers must be able to feel the possibility of the tale actually happening, somewhere, sometime.

Number FOUR any story with a semblance of normal human existence, whether it be romance or thriller, is better if supported by real facts, even in passing. If you are in London get some fog in there, Big Ben bonging the hour, or taxis.

Also, so FIFTH condition if you’re still counting, would be characters who seem alive, feel real, and have sensible conversations that sound spontaneous and natural. And since reading is a form of entertainment, the added ingredients to present a full picture can include humour, satire, sarcasm, irony and a whole palette of analogies, descriptions, colour and pathos of every kind. Thus we have reached the SIXTH item for our list of responsibilities: paint the picture, tell the story, and never, never let it be a recitation of events that are as dull as dishwater.

SEVEN: If one is writing non-fiction, there is a monumental burden of responsibility. Hours beyond hours of intense digging for truth, facts, or opinions, and then listing a comprehensive bibliography all become necessary if a reader is going to take it seriously. In many cases, writers of non-fiction are very highly educated in the special field they may be writing about, another form of responsibility accepted and acted upon. Non-fiction will never by my forte. I’m far too lazy!

How responsible do I, as a writer of children’s books, have to be? I can’t profess to making a conscious or conscientious choice, but I feel I’ve balanced some nature facts with the whimsy of a child’s imagination (EIGHT). The Wise Old Owl being a mentor and friend to Shelby is one digression. Out there in nature that Owl would simply eat Shelby up for a tidy snack between meals. To defend this far-fetched relationship I argue poetic license (NINE). Where would the fun be without some ideas that defy Mother Nature? Also by portraying such a kindly-uncle figure I hope to reinforce in children the value of seeking and following the good advice and loving support offered by friends, family and teachers (TEN).

I do feel it’s important to include at least one unfriendly confrontation (ELEVEN), so I created a mean crow who bullies Shelby and nearly knocks him off a pole, at a crucial time during a rush for safety while crossing a road. Life isn’t all peaches and cream as Shelby may have hoped.

Another point of responsibility is to have the story take off and arch toward a finale (TWELVE). This happens in each story in my first book, ‘The Complete Adventures of SHELBY F. SQUIRREL and Friends’, a series of separate tales. But at the same time, during the 24 stories there is a larger arch that pulls us along, following Shelby as he stumbles and trips his way through 2 years of learning experiences that leave him considerably more grown up than in Chapter One, ‘SHELBY’S FLYING LESSON’. In my second book, ‘The Great FOREST CAPER’, the arch builds all the way through to a finale in the last chapter.

I would be hugely remiss to omit mention of correct spelling, proper grammar, and precise punctuation. Dreary as it may seem, that’s what makes a good book readable. Oops, THIRTEEN.

Oh, and by the way, this long (and I hope not-too-boring) list is really based on my experiences as a reader. The duties and/or responsibilities required for any job are seldom observed or analyzed by the worker, but are always clear as crystal to the boss and the customers. Maybe we should call this one FOURTEEN for good luck!

Eleanor Lawrie, Sept 27, 2016

This post is contributed by Author Eleanor Lawrie (@eleanorlawrie1)

Why I write For Children

Children’s stories encourage compassion and empathy in children, who identify with the hero or heroine, and root for him/her throughout their escapades.

Ever since I read the famous Sapir Whorf Hypothesis : “the structure of a language determines or greatly influences the modes of thought and behavioral characteristic of the culture in which it is spoken,” I have realized the importance of language learning for young people, and how fundamental it is to child development, and learning as a whole.

There are words, and thus, concepts, which cannot be directly translated from one language to another. One can approach the meaning through close paraphrasing, but something is lost in translation.

Until recently, for example, there was no notion of the, “individual,” in Japanese culture, and thus no word to describe this idea. I do not know of another word for the German, “zeitgeist,” although “spirit of the age” may be an approximate paraphrasing. And it is well documented that Inuit people have numerous words for snow, because their very survival depends on it; we have a limited number.

But language is a living thing- new words for new ideas are continually appearing in our dictionaries, and languages are continually in process, as words from all over the world influence this evolution of a new language.

Enhanced communication between cultures enriches our vocabulary, as we borrow and cross-fertilize ideas from each other.

There is a sense in which multiculturalism and globalization have the potential to bring new languages, new ideas, and new ways of doing things, and indeed, the resources to negotiate, and tackle problems like global warming, across the globe.

One can see that a rich vocabulary and language learning strongly influence our capacity to think certain thoughts, to innovate, and to shape the world, as the world shapes us. Thus, it is crucial to children’s cognitive and behavioral development.

Because language learning enables children to think in an abstract way, there is a sense in which reading is a journey which takes children outside of their immediate world. Children learn to explore, and develop curiosity about things that are familiar, and things which are new, and beyond their immediate environment and experience.

A children’s adventure story can transport a child into unknown, exotic territory, where it is safe to take risks, and encounter danger, and  excitement, knowing that they will survive to tell the tale.

Children’s stories encourage compassion and empathy in children, who identify with the hero or heroine, and root for him/her throughout their escapades. Storytelling is thus crucial to their emotional intelligence, resilience to overcome problems, and their emotional security and development.

One can see that a sense of adventure is as important for girls as it is for boys, and it is all to the good if we cultivate in our boys a sense of caring about others.

Whatever class, culture or creed, a child who has access to books can surpass his immediate environment, enter into worlds of possibilities, beyond any immediate constraints. This is why I support libraries, and charities which open doors for disadvantaged young people to have equality of opportunity for access to books.

I also nurture the idealistic dream that my books will be translated in to many languages, so that my cross-cultural message speaks to an international audience. Every child should experience social diversity.

“Snugs The Snow Bear,” has a universal message about global warming, which will impact us, and future generations to come, unless we heed the warning signs, and live our lives in an environmentally friendly manner.

For this I am grateful, that I grew up in a dual language family, who fostered and encouraged a love of learning, and, in particular, valued reading, and books.

Books encouraged my curiosity about language, about relationships and people, and about the world.

And, of course, travel is a great educator, even when it is of the virtual kind.

This post is contributed by Author Suzy Davies, Copyright 07/11/2016. All Rights Reserved.