Thursday, February 4, 2010

As Writers, We Must Not Forget to Read

On the fourth day of this Picture Book Marathon, a challenge to write 26 picture books in 28 days, I took time out from my busy scribbling to read about 10 other short stories, articles and nonfiction pieces.

Quickly, I was reminded that to write well, one must be well read.

Writing a book a day is not easy, even if the target goal is only about 500 words.  A lot of time gets wasted hitting the delete key, or staring at a blinking cursor.  Or getting up to do laundry and dishes after each sentence.

After reading several stories, including one called "Zindy Lou and the Dark Place" I was reminded of the importance, especially in children's literature, of including only what's essential.  Because I typically enjoy reading memoirs, historical fiction or creative nonfiction, I often relish minute details and descriptions.  I was reminded, quickly, that going off on tangents undesirably adds to restricted word counts and will distract a young reader.

Furthermore– I enjoyed each story that I read, despite the absence of poetic wanderings.  Proof that reading can further direct and inspire me to become a better writer.

I realized that when I write (even if I've created a storyboard first) I don't always know exactly how the story will end.  But once the ending gets written, it is crucial to go back through the story and eliminate or reword details that are now "bridges to nowhere."

Yesterday's picture book for the marathon came to me quickly because I had taken an hour of time out of my day to read.  I sat down to type, determined to take my idea and only type a skeleton.  Sentences shouldn't be longer than 10 words, and details that were not essential or foreshadowing were omitted.

I–and my husband–was amazed that such a simply written story could be so powerful.  But thus far, it's my favorite one!  Three cheers for being concise.

Perhaps all of this writing for children will help me with my freelance work doing copywriting and more.

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