My Writing Recipe and Story Plan
1. REAL LIFE.
2. IMAGINATION – add some WHAT IF?
The words ‘what if?’ open up your mind and activate your imagination!!!
Ask yourself more questions – who? what? where? when? how? to gather more ingredients.
Your story must have:
Characters, plot (the action) and setting/s.
A beginning – start with one main character. Give him/her/it a problem. (Another character perhaps)
A middle – let your main character try to solve the problem once, twice, three times at least but the problem gets worse!
Keep your reading guessing Keep the excitement rising – how is it going to end?
I want my readers to identify with my main character/s early on.
I therefore try to involve the reader right from the start by
a) showing character’s feelings.eg. ‘“Bum!” Poppy punched her pillow!
.. How could Mum be so mean?’ (When Poppy Ran Away. Andersen Press)
b) intriguing them by something mysterious or funny eg.
‘No one saw the pig. No one saw it trotting down the church path, which seemed to flow beneath its hoofs. The clock of St Anthony’s had just struck midnight.’
(The Ghost of Tantony Pig. Andersen Press)
or both a) and b)
‘Georgie Bell was off computers – right off. Weird things had been happening recently.
She’d been sucked in twice! Yes really! Into her computer! And she’d nearly been eaten by a dragon.
Her brilliant brain had saved her – just – but she was definitely going to get a new hobby. Something safer … like bungy jumping.’
(Georgie and the Computer Bugs. Collins)
1. I introduce a character early on.
2.I give the character a PROBLEM.
(I want my readers to care whether my character copes with or solves the problem.)
3. I include the setting, so that readers can SEE ( and maybe hear, feel and smell the scene) and to create a particular atmosphere which can be mysterious, jokey, realistic or fantastical.
NB. As a writer I need to name my characters early on. I can’t get going with the plot till I have correctly named my characters.
This involves collecting names and their meanings, searching in Name your Baby books etc.
How To Improve Your Writing
(Notes for teachers which can be adapted for use with pupils of different ages and abilities and circumstances.)
I’d find it hard to write a good story in SATS conditions!
To produce a publishable script most writers do several drafts, editing as they go along.
In the final draft the writer will have expressed his or her thoughts as precisely as possible. Through carefully chosen words the writer’s thoughts can enter someone else’s head.
Don’t make pupils redraft all their writing. It’s hard work and may be discouraging, but do encourage them to try and improve some pieces. It’s encouraging for some to learn that they can take their time to improve a piece of writing.
They don’t have to get it right first time.
When you write a story think of the story in your head as a film, with characters, actions, locations and atmospheres. You may also want to suggest tastes, textures and smells! A film arouses thoughts and feelings with moving pictures and a sound track.
A written story does all this with words alone.
(If your story is going to be illustrated, you, the writer must put the pictures into the illustrator’s head by careful choice of words.)
Good writing is the right words in the right order. Good writing puts clear images in the reader’s head. The writer writes and re-writes to make things clearer.
The writer improves each draft by editing to make it clearer. This goes through several stages. Suggest to pupils that they:
1. Self-edit as they go along.
Say, ‘You might need to –
- Cross out a word if you think of a better one while you’re writing, and put another in its place.
- Cross out a word – or several – because you don’t need it/them.
- Add a word -or several – to make your meaning clearer. (Use arrows /\ /\)
- Change the punctuation or add capitals to make your meaning clearer.
- You might also need to change the sequence – (order of saying things) (Use brackets and arrows)
- Make sure you can read your writing, but don’t worry about untidiness at this stage.
Re-write your story – (Onto the word processor perhaps, then print it out.)
Read it out – aloud if possible. (Correct any mistakes that you notice while you read.)
2. Use a Co-Editor.
Ask a friend to read it. Ask him/her the following questions –
a) Which character did you like best in my story? What is s/he like?
b) Which character didn’t you like? What is s/he like?
c) What happened in my story? How did it begin, continue, end?
d) What was the most exciting bit?
e) Where did it happen?
f) When did it happen?
g) What did my story make you feel like? (Happy, sad, frightened, excited, amused, bored?)
If your friend can answer a question give yourself a tick . You have succeeded in putting that part of your story into your reader’s head. If your friend can’t, then you need to make things clearer. Ask yourself –
a) Have I shown what the characters are like? (Showing, by giving evidence, convinces your reader.)
b) Have I put the evidence of at least three of my senses into this story? Have I shown what things looked, sounded, smelt, tasted and/or felt* like? –
(* both sorts of feeling – touch/texture and touch/feelings.)
c) Have I used the best words I know to show what I mean?
d) Have I got the sequence and pace right?
Re-draft, improving your story by adding, changing or removing bits.
Some bits may be boring and unnecessary. In a film the camera can be close-up showing some moments in detail, and it can move swiftly over vast areas of space and time.
So can words! “The princess slept for a hundred years.” You don’t have to describe the hundred years in detail!
You may mention that the palace gardens became a tangled forest that hid the place from human eyes.
Copy-edit – check spelling, punctuation, capital letters etc.
3. Give it to a Teacher-Editor.
Explain to pupils that, at this stage, a professional writer would send the script to the editor of a publishing house, who might ask the writer to do another re-write!
The editor would make The editor would mark the script with corrections and suggestions for improvement. The writer and the editor would discuss these comments.
This is best practice in lots of school. Teachers act as editors.
Ask pupils not to be offended by the marks on their script. Ask them to discuss your suggestions then do a final draft.
Then why not publish it?
Make it into a book for the class or school library and let the public read it!