As you can tell from this picture, I loved reading from a very early age. After I learned to read, I usually read 20 or 30 books a week. I never watched TV, and still don’t. I’d much rather curl up with a book. I often got in trouble in school for hiding books in my desk and reading while the teachers talked. In sixth grade, I had a wonderful teacher who said that I could read as much as I wanted during class. I got straight A’s that year even though I read all day long.
My reading slowed down when I started writing books of my own. Now my reading time has become my writing time. But I strongly believe that if you want to be a good writer, read as many books you can. Read for fun, but also look for classics so you can learn from the best authors.
When I first started, I wrote magazine articles. They taught me how to tell a good story in a small amount of space. If you like to write, try short stories. If they have similar theme—say, family stories or animal stories—they can be collected into a book.
If you like reading true stories, you might want to try writing nonfiction. I worked as a librarian, so I like to research. It’s important to get your facts correct if you’re writing nonfiction. I write a lot of nonfiction, and I learned that I should always find the most reliable sources. And I don’t just believe whatever I read. Sometimes authors get facts wrong. One good rule to follow is to find the same fact in at least three different places.
Be careful of Internet research, though. Anyone can put up a site and make it sound good. That doesn’t mean what they post is accurate. Look for sites that are put up by institutions such as hospitals or colleges. They are usually careful about the facts they publish.
One of my favorite books to research was Pirates Through the Ages, and I also liked writing a biography of Rihanna. I was excited when she friended me. The biggest book project I’ve done so far is the Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. It has five volumes, so it took a lot of work and research.
But research isn’t only for nonfiction books. Even if you’re making up a story, it’s good to check your facts. If you write a story about a fire and you haven’t been in one yourself, talk to a firefighter to see what it’s like. What does it feel like, smell like? What things burn fastest? What’s left in the ashes? How long do firefighters stay at a fire after it’s put out? Details like those can make your story come to life.
Think of something you’ve always wished you could do or be. Maybe you’d like to be an NBA star, a ballerina, a spy, or a police officer. Or maybe your dream is totally different. Whatever it is, make up a story about someone who’s living the life you wish you could live. How did they get to be where they are?
Remember, in all stories, the main character needs a problem. What problems do you think this person might have had along the way? How did they overcome them? Give them some difficult obstacles to overcome with many setbacks along the way.
To make your story more realistic, do some research. Talk to someone who’s doing what you’d like to do. See what problems they had. If you’ve written about a sports figure, you might not be able to interview a pro. But perhaps you could talk to someone who plays on the high school team. Or read a biography of a person who’s done what you want to do. See if you can make your story more real and interesting by finding out details that everyone might not know.
You could even make up a story about you becoming that person. What problems would you have to overcome to do what they’re doing now? Or suppose the two of you switched bodies? What would life be like for each of you?
About the Author
A former teacher and children’s librarian, Laurie J. Edwards has more than 2000 magazine and educational articles in print. Her recent books include the 5-vol. UXL Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (Gale, 2012), Pirates through the Ages (Cengage, 2011), and Rihanna (People in the News) (Lucent, 2009). Laurie also has stories in two anthologies, Summer Lovin’ and A Community of Writers. She is ghostwriting a young adult series set in the Wild West and is working on several books on cyberbullying. Please visit Laurie at her website at http://www.strikingly.com/lauriejedwards. She also has tips for writers at her blogs http://lje1.wordpress.com/ and http://downtownya.blogspot.com/.