Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Using the Right Tools

Today my son come home from kindergarten with a homework assignment to write an essay on what it is like to be a worm. We went through the essay (five whole sentences). As he came up with the first sentence, he decided to put an exclamation mark after the first word. He didn't know what it was called, but he proudly informed me that it meant that you had to shout what was written.

I convinced him to move it to the end of the sentence, since you can't put it in the middle. He wrote a five sentence essay with enthusiasm. Or shouting. A friend from school had told him about this new tool, and Jacob embraced it wholeheartedly. It made me think back on some basic writing rules, and how much I've been able to grow as I've learned more about writing and the tools I have available.

In addition the exclamation point, which I seldom if ever use, we have adverbs, adjectives, POV, and all other sorts of writing tools that can bring a person closer into the story.  While we have these tools available, I think the thing that sets great writers apart from good writers is knowing just when and how much to use each tool. Finding the perfect balance between description and moving the story forward, and when and how to use dialogue can really change how well you write.

Somehow a cup of water was knocked over on my desk, fortunately, just where I store my writing books and papers. As I scrambling to pull everything out and salvage it so that it can dry and still be useful, I found the first draft of Isis. It's the novel I started writing around the same time as this blog started. It wasn't my first novel, or my second (technically), but it was the first one that I really put out there. It's printed on several different colors of paper. It's marked up and dog eared. This copy never went out to agents. It was seriously revised, and then seriously revised again. A lot of characters disappeared, and along the way the rhythm of the story changed.

Writing that book helped me sharpen my writing tools. It honed my editing skills. It taught me how to plot, and that I'd rather plot than fly by the seat of my pants. And now I'm still working on honing my tools.

What do you to beef up the tools in your writing box?


Heather Hansen said...

My kids love exclamation points too! <--See what I did there? LOL

They also tell me how to write a compelling novel (because they have sooo much experience). Which is 2 parts annoying and 1 part adorable.


Mim said...

Kids are great at knowing the best way to do something, but you're right it can be so cute, yet exasperating!

Natalie Aguirre said...

5 sentences can be daunting for a kid. I can remember when it used to take 45 minutes for my daughter to write a paragraph in grade school. Thankfully in 9th grade she had a realization that she can write good and likes it.

Mim said...

It can be daunting to write that much. Since he was in kindergarten, his essay consisted more of five separate sentences rather than a cohesive paragraph. And it takes him longer to write then to think. I'm glad your daughter realized she can write well. It makes it so much easier when you are confident.