Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Lessons from A Young Author

I am a firm believer that big readers make great writers. The sooner that children get started on both of these disciplines, the better. As a new mom, I would read to my daughter, Halima, every chance I got. When she was three, we made our first trip to the library and now it is one of our favorite hangouts. I have watched her morph into a reading machine--she reads everything that interests her. As a result, her writing has become more layered and her use of vocabulary in her storytelling has matured quickly. She is finding her voice. I detect subtle and not-so-subtle influences from her favorite YA authors (Meg Cabot, Derrick Barnes, Lois Lowry, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Benton, Jeff Kinney, Francesco Sedita, and Rachel Renee Russell) in her work. Halima also draws inspiration from family, friends, and life experience to create memorable characters.

For the last two years, my (now) 12 year-old  has successfully completed the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. Otherwise known as "30 days of literary abandon", writers from all walks of life turn off their internal editors and commit to penning a novel during the month of November. For those of you who are not aware of NaNoWriMo, they offer both an adult challenge and a Young Writer's Program which is open to everyone. Young writers set their own minimum word count and then calculate the average number of words that must be written everyday to stay on track. Halima did a general outline for her book, but just let the story develop as her imagination ran wild. (So far, I have managed to write a couple of "interesting" short stories, but my NaNoWriMo claim to fame thus far has been editing Halima's upcoming release, The Adventures of Riley.) Being her teacher and her mom, the thing that impressed me the most about Halima has been her commitment and determination to finish the challenge. She wrote almost everyday in November. When "it just wasn't flowing", my budding author would take a break from her writing to re-group. Often after a day or two, she would jump right back in making up for lost time.

As we finalize Riley, we are also looking forward to completing a picture book collaboration. Halima has entered a few writing contests this school year and scribbles in her journal "just for fun". I am taking some cues from Halima in my approach to writing. Maybe you will, too?

 Lesson #1: Read. Read what you like. Read a lot of it. Read for education, vocation, and pure enjoyment. Whatever, the reason, read. It will make you a better writer. 

Lesson #2: Write. Write down your thoughts. Write when you are inspired. Write when you must. Write when you don't have to. Find a reason to keep your pen to the paper. Keep a journal, start a blog, or even write articles, short stories, or poems. Write for work or academic purposes. Turn off your internal editor and let the words flow. Just keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get.

Lesson #3: Be Doggedly Determined. Make a commitment to finish what you start. Set goals. Meet your own deadlines. Allow yourself time and space to re-group when your muse doesn't show up, or life shows up in its place. If you believe in a project, see it through to the end --no matter what.

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...


  1. Your daughter is amazing! I will keep my eyes on the best seller lists for her name.