Young Writer's

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Writing Tips from Katie Did

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So, you want to be a writer!
Let's see if you have what it takes...

...OK, so you're stuck sitting in the car while your mom runs into the store to pick up a gallon of milk. You know it's going to be a while because you can clearly see the mile long lines at every check out stand through the massive front windows.

What do you do...?

1) Pick your nose and gross out the people walking past.
2) Turn the radio on and jam.
3) Take a nap.
4) Read a book/magazine/car owner's manual.
5) People watch and make up stories about their lives.
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If you picked 5) because you think that is the answer I was looking for, you get an 'A' for being both smart and sneaky. But it's not necessarily, the only right answer. As a matter of fact, if you have the tallent/desire to be a writer, then all of the above answers can be of benefit to varying degrees.

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1) Picking your nose may not be very sanitary, but it will sure get a response out of most people, and eliciting responses from people is what writing is about. You want to move them out of their mundane, self absorbed personal space and into one  that provokes emotion whether it be anger, joy, sadness, even shock.  The words you choose will determine the depth and intensity of these emotions, as will the place you choose to wipe what came out of your nose.

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2) If you chose to  turn on the radio and jam, that's not an all together bad answer either. Like brainstorming with other kids for ideas about school projects, listening to the story lines of songs, and getting a feel for the rhythm can send your brain into areas of thought that might not have happened had you just been picking your nose.  You might think about what compelled the writer of a particular song to write the words the way they did, what might have been going on in their lives to provoke the passion behind that choice of words and/or music. Perhaps you could think of the actual characters IN the song, and ponder their lives, feelings and situations. And lastly, it might be the zany DJ who sparks an idea, or even a commercial.
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3) Choosing to take a nap would be my last choice on this list, unless of course you stayed up all night picking your nose or listening to the radio. In which case I'd say, "Go ahead and grab a few winks." But one good thing about your brain while it is sleeping, it doesn't have any restrictions on anything. You can fly, breath under water, or transform into a giant, rock eating centipede. The subconscious mind is a wonderful place for ideas, providing you know where to disengage the ID, the part of the brain that knows nothing about right and wrong or good and bad. That's not to say, you have to remove all of the thoughts/ideas that you know are to be considered bad by society/parents. That's to say, you will use your judgment as to HOW you might present some forms of negative thoughts when putting it down on paper.

There are ways to condition your subconscious mind to do your bidding. The power of suggestion is stronger in some than others, but all of us are susceptible to some degree. At night, (or sitting in the car) before you decide to go to sleep, tell yourself you want an idea for a story, or the answer to a problem you have been having. The moment you awake, whether or not you think it's relevant, write down whatever was in your head, and if the actual scenes are not there, (sometimes they vanish within seconds) record the feelings, which almost always linger behind a while longer. Later, read over them, and see if you can recall what was happening in your dream the moment you awoke. If not, look at the words you wrote and assume they are words from a stranger and figure out what the meaning behind them are. Chances are, there is a great story somewhere in the midst, however bizarre or outrageous it might seem at first.
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4) This would be my second choice for best answer, as one thing good writers have in common is, they all...
Read, Read, Read!
Not only does your vocabulary build the more you read, but your mental file for ideas continues to grow and your imagination broadens.  You start to recognize styles of writing. Some you like and some you don't. You experience different 'voices'. Is the story written in first, second or third person? What would you have had happen differently? How did the writer surprise/anger/move you?  Approached in the right manner, even a car owner's manual can become a playground of writing ideas. Perhaps their is a conspiracy to overthrow one particular part of the car that is the center of functionality. Inanimate objects can be brought to life just as characters we contrive from our own notions. The story might prove to be a bit more challenging,  as all fiction has to have a strong base in fact to be believable. That's not to say, that the carburetor and the spark plugs can not secretly devise a plan of attack on the engine. But it must make sense that the engine would be the crux of the operation, and taking it out would immobilize the car, or cause the effect that you are looking to achieve. If a mechanic were to read the story, would he tell you that one part of the car has nothing to do with the other, and thus, your story would be un-credible, or do your facts match up and he says your story is INcredible?

There are lots of things you can just pull out of the big blue sky, providing they are set in situations unfamiliar to others. You can even fudge a little when it comes to obscure subjects, things that people might have SOME idea about but are not totally educated in. For example, I lived in Las Vegas for nine years, and almost every movie I see on TV or at the theater that has a scene from Las Vegas in it, shows a person walking into the front of one casino, and the inside is a completely  different one. And then when he walks out the back, it is yet another casino altogether! But, if you've never been to Vegas, or even if you have, but not lived there long enough to become familiar with the surroundings, then those little slips of fact can slide by without much trouble. But for me, it just blew the credibility of the whole movie.
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5) Making up stories  about strangers (in your head) is a great way to expand your imagination, and imagination is the root to being a good writer. Grammar and spelling are important, but they can be corrected, and with a bit of effort, improved upon merely by studying. But imagination...looking past the obvious to the fantastical, and being able to pull someone along willingly with you, THAT is the real secret to being a good writer. If 5) was truly your answer to the question, then just keep doing what your doing and perhaps add a few elements from the list here. In any case, keep listening, keep writing, keep reading, keep imagining, and once in a while when mom's not looking, do a little picking!

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To the left are some good links for Young Writers. Check them out. The more you investigate, the more you learn. The more you learn, the wilder your imagination. The wilder your imagination, the better your stories.

~Katie Did~
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