And then I read the answer:
When I was working on my Five Steps to Raising Devoted Readers, one of the most influential books I read was The Reading Zone, by Nancie Atwell. Atwell is a reading seminar teacher at CTL, a school in rural Maine. On average, Atwell’s 7th and 8th graders read between 40-100 quality books each year. The numbers are equally impressive for the younger kids at CTL. When I learned of Nancie’s success with these kids, my first thoughts were--who are these kids that read so many books? Is CTL a special school for gifted kids? How much are their families paying to get them such an elite education?
And then I read the answer:
Reading Statistics - did you know reading boosts math scores, lowers crime, and helps kids play nicer on the playground?
And, did you know that kids today are reading less than ever?
The Scary Stats
Finding a good book is not just a matter of luck. With kids especially, it can take effort and persistence to get them buried in a quality book. If your child is a reluctant reader, or a lazy reader like my boys used to be, chances are they just haven't clicked with the right books yet. But you can change that, and your efforts will be more than worth it. For starters, kids who read for pleasure have higher math scores, better social IQs, and a greater likelihood of job satisfaction down the road. But they're not going to get these benefits by reading Captain Underpants, I'm sorry to say. (My kids have tried time and again to have me think otherwise.)
From policy makers, to teachers, down to individual readers everyone seems to be lowering the standards when it comes to reading. Kids today are reading at three grade levels below what kids were reading 100 years ago. And in general, kids in America will read less every year they grow older. With all the access to literature and leaps in technology, how can we regress so deeply?
A blurb about courage — written for me and anyone who ever felt afraid to try.
My six year old woke at the crack of dawn to get dressed for school. Put on his nicest kaki pants and polo then slapped on some suspenders and a bowtie. We slicked his hair into an obnoxious comb-over. All that was left was to put on his mustache, a fuzzy old thing we dug up from the costume bin.
It was Dress Like a Teacher Day at the elementary school and my kindergartner had planned a week in advance what he would wear. Now that the day had finally arrived he ran to the mirror to look himself over — and his little face fell. “What if people laugh at me?” he asked with a pout. “What if they think I’m just wearing church clothes?” And worst of all,” What if my mustache falls off?”
Please allow me to introduce Lord Frangipane. Master of all tarts and ruler of all pastry creams, Lord Frangipane would look positively dashing on your plate.
Do you need an outline to begin writing a novel?
Will it help if you have one?
Do I wish I had used one?
Yes and No.
When I learned that Stephen King does not use outlines and plot maps in his stories, I finally felt courageous enough to start writing my first novel. I didn’t know my characters, I didn’t know my plot, I didn’t even know the point of my story. I just started writing a scene from a dream, and I went from there, figuring things out as I went along.
I will tell you right now that I did things the hard way, and I do not recommend doing it this way if you can help it. But, you have to start somewhere. If the idea of having a complete outline is stopping you from progress, then forget the outline and get started. Just realize that the less you prepare, the more you will edit.
My novel went through dozens of drafts and re-writes because I didn’t know what my goal was with the book until I finished an entire draft. With the help of test readers, editors, and several of my own re-reads, I eventually found my groove and tweaked, deleted, added, and re-worded until I got it right. It took five years.
I am not opposed to doing it this way again if I have to, but I prefer to do more advanced planning for future novels. I currently have plans in my head for three future novels and I’m actively preparing for them, even though it could be a while before I actually start writing them.
For each novel, I have a folder on my laptop with the following documents. I used these same documents with my first novel after I finished my first draft. Going through the editing process was much easier once I had these notes in place:
General Notes – This is where I keep track of character ages, dates, locations, and any rambling that I might need to refer to. My novel spans several years and it was important to keep track of some of these details to make sure I didn’t get caught with inaccuracies. Any details that need to be kept straight and any random thoughts about the story are kept here.
Characters – I like to create a detailed sketch of each main character. This includes physical descriptions, preferences, character quirks, etc. I think about my characters all the time and I add to their profiles pretty regularly. I have a writer friend who goes online and finds stock photo images of people that look like her characters. She prints the pictures and hangs them on her wall so she can look at them while she writes. Sounds brilliant!
Scenes – I keep track of three types of scenes.
To add – Some of my best ideas come when I am not ready for them. A real life experience inspires a scene idea, or sometimes while writing an idea pops in my head for another scene to be added either later on or sometimes earlier in the story. Just write a quick description of these new scene ideas in your notes so you won’t lose them, and come back to write them when you’re ready. I have already filled several pages with scene ideas for a novel I have not started writing yet. When the ideas come, write them down before you lose them!
To consider deleting – There will always be scenes you are on the fence about. Just give it some time, ask advice from editors and test readers, and eventually do what you feel best about. Certain scenes nagged at my for years, and the moment I finally deleted them, I felt a huge relief, knowing I made the right choice to cut them.
Deleted – Don’t lose your deleted scenes! You might want them back later, and you can always use them to treat your readers after your book is published.
Problems – Often I have questions about a certain character or event. Maybe an issue needs research. Maybe I have a scene that contradicts another scene. When you come across these issues, just make note of them so you can come back and resolve them when you have the time.
Kirsten Joy & Kim
We believe you get credit for trying
. . .
Yup, we're talking to YOU!
Artist, mom, sister, saint,
career lady, home-body, covered in paint
Keep it Real, Keep it Kind,
and spread the word that
we ALL get
Credit for Trying