What Writers Do Right

WritingMy eighth-grade English teacher was named Mrs. Crisick. She seemed like any old  teacher way back then but I know, in remembering bits and pieces from her class, that she was extraordinary.

Once, when we were assigned to write a story, she stood in front of the class with mine in her hand and said she wanted to read a wonderful sentence from it: “Round the world, then back home they flew.” Thatʼs all she read. Just that one sentence. I donʼt remember who, in that story of mine, was flying or what spurred their trip around the world. And though Mrs. Crisick told the class why she liked that sentence (“You could feel the movement in it”) I really couldn’t t see what made it any different from the rest of the sentences in my story, which were probably pretty mediocre.

To the aspiring writer, what he or she does right can be as mysterious as what she does wrong and Iʼve learned, when reading manuscripts, to hit those right things hard. In fact, I can sometimes go into interrogation mode: This word/sentence/paragraph/description is fabulous. Do you know why???

book-a-day almanacThe next best thing to having someone look to see what you, the aspiring writer, are doing right in your stories is to have someone point out what good writers are doing right in their stories. And a great way to do that is to visit Anita Silveyʼs Childrenʼs Booka-Day Almanac, where she features books that are either classics or on their way to becoming classics. Read what Silvey has to say about the childrenʼs books sheʼs selected and then check a few them out of the library to see if you can figure out what makes them stand-outs.

It wonʼt be long before the techniques you see in those beautifully-written books will start to become part of your own writing. And in the not-too-distant future, one of your books just might land on Anita Silveyʼs website!