Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Story Seed / Writing Tip # 4 - The Magic of a List

In celebration of the enjoyment I've had writing children's books, every week my blog will be featuring 1) the tiny, real-life seed from which one of my stories unfolded and 2) a writing tip that helped the seed grow into a finished story.

(c) Lisa Smith
The Seed: New snow had fallen and our family was packing up for a winter picnic. My two-year-old was rushing around like crazy. If there was this much excitement, there had to be a story! Even with my husband helping, however, it was too hectic to find my notebook and really write. Just before I headed out the door, I grabbed a scrap of paper and made a quick list of the last four things I'd put into the back packs...

The Book: Ben's Snow Song

The Writing Tip: If you can't do any other kind of writing...make a list! All afternoon that scrap of paper with it's four words, so patiently sitting on the counter at home, became a gathering spot for my thoughts. The magic of a list is that, even while it helps you focus, it almost begs for your thoughts to expand as well.  Soon all my senses were reaching for words and phrases.  The sound of the skis on the snow. The happy buzz of chickadees. Words repeated in my head to the rhythm of our movement through the trees.
                               Sunlight, shadow, sunlight, shadow.
                               Cold and quiet, 
                               world of snow.  
Have you ever noticed how a list becomes a poem?  
          When we stopped to build a fire, the crack of the wood being split, the smells of roasting hot dogs and the taste of gingerbread men all joined in. 
          No matter how well things seemed to be turning out in the list/poem department, however, I knew I must not forget the basics.  Every story needs a crises.  This is a gentle little story so the crises could be gentle as well - but it is there, complete with resolution.        
(c) Lisa Smith
 Lisa Smith did a perfect job of giving the illustrations the wintery freshness and the family warmth they needed. More of Lisa's lovely art can be seen on her home page

By the way, it's not just when I'm in a hurry that I use lists. I also use them  
  • to overcome writer's block (a form of "free fall" )
  • to internalize the age and interests of my young characters
  • to broaden a story plot (lists help to both focus and expand)
  • to try and pin down an illusive theme
  • to come up with a stronger and more surprising ending
  • to keep track of the problems I know exist in a manuscript but  haven't quite figured out how to fix yet 
  • to plan what I'll work on during my next writing period so that when I do return to a story I'm off to a running start
Happy writing, making lists and enjoying the great outdoors in whatever way the season allows... until the next blog!  
  c All Rights Reserved. All blog text(except comments by others) copyright Hazel Hutchins.  

No comments:

Post a Comment