I had the privilege of meeting Newbery winner Linda Sue Park when she visited my daughter’s school last month. In preparation for her visit, I re-read “A Long Walk to Water.” The novel is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” who were separated from their families during the country’s civil war in 1985 and traveled on foot for hundreds of desolate miles to reach a refugee camp in Ethiopia. In the story, Salva’s uncle motivates his nephew to keep putting one foot in front of the other by breaking up the daunting trek into smaller, manageable parts. Continue reading
It’ easy to use certain words and phrases over and over again. So, when you’re done writing a scene, take advantage of your writing software’s “find” function to see how often words appear in your prose. Now go through and cut the ones you can or re-write the sentences to eliminate the repetitions.
As summer break begins, don’t let those lazy days beckon you to get lazy with your daily writing habits. Make a list of scenes that you want to write this month. Then for the first half of the month, write a summary of what needs to happen in each scene. It’s okay just to “tell” what needs to happen in each, but try to be as specific as possible. Then for the second half of the month, go back through each scene and replace all those telling moments with action, emotion, description and anything else that helps you “show” your readers what’s happening.
When it’s time to tighten a scene, study your characters’ thoughts and feelings and ask yourself what purpose they serve. If they don’t help your readers understand the character’s motivations, consider cutting those lines.