Michael's Musings

Writer Wednesday: Rules for Writers #1

(Writer Wednesday is a weekly feature I’ll be doing where I discuss my current projects, writing hurdles, and my process in general.)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a fan of the school visits. (See Exhibits A, B, & most importantly, C.) But I don’t believe I’ve written in any real detail about what I actually do at these visits. So that’s what I’ll be discussing in this feature for the next few weeks.

The main feature of my visits is a talk I have called “Four Rules For Writers.” It’s a list of the basic principles I’ve adopted during the course of over a decade of formal study and another half decade of writing for a living, principles that any kid can apply on their own. Today I’ll give the short version of Rule #1.

A school visit to Shell Beach Elementary, in Shell Beach, CA -- 3/15/2012.

Rule #1: Read

You can’t be a good writer without being a good reader. You don’t have to be the quickest reader; but you do have to reflect on what you read. By reflecting on what you read — the choices the author made in telling the story, what made you laugh, what made you cry, and why — you begin to absorb the basic ways that storytelling works…or doesn’t work. Actually, you can learn a whole lot from literature that doesn’t work very well.

I use reading in two ways: as a way to broaden my experience of the world, and also as creative fuel. I can draw lines to almost everything I’ve written from to the books that inspired me. To wit:

It’s been said, quite wisely, that you should write the story you desperately want to read, but can’t find anywhere else. And there’s only one way to find out what book doesn’t yet exist: by reading lots, and lots, and lots. So, writer, get to it!

Next week — Rule #2: Listen.

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