SOL Challenge Day 7 – Learning to Write by reading

I have been writing about writing for the last few days. This is my own exploration into what I am doing to help myself to be a better writer. I am thinking about what I need to do to go from short stories and blog posts to the magic of a full manuscript. The writing of a book that holds not just parts and pieces of a story but the inter weaving of characters lives that shares their full story. So I am reading and reading and reading.

imgres-1I stumbled into Holly Black’s book The Darkest Part of the Forest and thought this is not for me. I had read it is a young adult book with lots of kissing and I know young adults might like that but it just isn’t me but this book was on my library e-book list and showed up on my i-pad and I began to read.

It was not long before she had me caught up in her tale of Fairfold and the young prince in the glass coffin – a tourist attraction?? a place for teens to party?? or a horned prince enslaved in a tomb of glass waiting to be released. It is all of these. Yes, there is kissing but there is so much more.

As a writer Holly Black skillfully bumps our real world of teen drinking parties, cell phones and the exploration of who we are and who we are attracted to up against the world of faeries, gnomes, curses and wild folks of the woods. She created a fine line between the two worlds and at least for me she makes it work. There is the peak into faerie wonderland but one quickly discovers that it is not all wine and roses. The battles for kingdoms, the favors given to the king and the lust for power is played out in all its gore and glory.

Her secret as a writer, I think, is her ability to make the real world real. Her characters are believable. Their relationships fit into what we know about our world making it easy to believe the rest of her fantasy world. She slips the bits and pieces of her fantasy in slowly. At first I was a bit skeptical but I liked her characters so much I wanted to see how this story would play out.

With that said, I was up beyond midnight as I neared the final chapters holding my breath as the many sides of this story played out. I discovered I like this fantasy world – this fine line between the real and the faerie folk. I liked sorting out the puzzle of how could this happen and who as helping who. Black does not let you down. She has a nice twist in the plot as we unravel the ending.

So as a writer what did I learn from reading Holly’s book –

  • keep your characters real -their emotions, actions, speech – even if they are faeries
  • be sure your location can be seen, felt and heard – write to your readers senses
  • details – the amount of details she includes at every section is amazing
  • research – she researched so much about faeries and the folk – stories needs to stay consistent with what we already know or believe as readers – i.e making your story real (even if it is fantasy)
  • writing is hard work – get use to it – write and re write – read and re read it is worth it.
  • You can’t do it alone – yes you write alone but you need other writers, editors and just plain old readers to listen, ask questions and push you in all the right directions – it is easy to get lost in your own story – share it – its ok

Interesting these are all the things I have said to my students over the years. Maybe I do know a little about teaching writing.  Now to go off and just write.  It’s easy right??!!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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9 Responses to SOL Challenge Day 7 – Learning to Write by reading

  1. jmjd says:

    This is exactly what we want our students to do. I hope the advice you found in Black’s work pays off.

  2. elsie says:

    I was nodding along as you outlined your discoveries. And then the aha, this is what we teach students to do. Happy writing Joanne!

  3. marymary219 says:

    Like you, I’m trying to make the transition from midwifing (if that’s a word) student work to writing for myself. Great advice! Thank you.

  4. Raivenne says:

    “Now to go off and just write. It’s easy right??!!” HAHAHAHAA! Sure! The steps you list are things I discovered the hard way in my writing travels. As much as I read, somehow it escaped me to actually read a book on WRITING until recently. Excellent advice.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      I am having fun reading kids books and asking why does this work? What does the author do to catch my attention. Why do kids want to red it? Doesn’t mean I can write that why but I keep trying. Happy Writing.

  5. I remember Stephen King saying something along the lines that to be a good writer you need to read as much as you can, and as widely as you can. You can learn so much from a great writer, can’t you, and it’s always inspiring to come across really good writing!

  6. Linda Baie says:

    My writer’s group meets tomorrow night, and their words about my writing mean a lot to me. We do need “alone” as you’ve written before, but readers too, and their thoughts. Great post, Joanne. I guess I’m going to have to read that book!

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