The goal is to turn all that “have to” school writing into “want to” writing. How on earth, you might be wondering, can you do that?
I think the reason most children don’t like to write is they don’t think they’ll be able to put down on paper what their teacher is looking for. They mistakenly believe there is some kind of formula for good writing they must have missed the day they were absent.
To be a good writer it is essential that you write in your own voice, not in a robotic “formula” voice or even in your teacher’s voice. Write what only you can write. Include all the dusty, all the glimmering, all the meaningful details from your own experiences. Describe things in new ways—beautiful ways, humorous ways, thought-provoking ways.
When I was a teacher, I taught children with siblings, only children, students from Mexico, students from Germany, children who lived with their grandparents, and children who lived with one parent. In other words, those precious students led very different lives! What puzzled me was, when I read their writing at the beginning of the year, most of their papers sounded the same. I would read something like: "Summer vacation was really fun. I took a trip with my grandpa. We ate picnics at rest stops. . . ."
However, in one child’s unique voice, that might have sounded like: "When I think of summer, I think of road trips with Grandpa. I hear jazz music. I see corn fields, and I taste rest stop picnics eaten to the tune of buzzing flies and my little brother singing fast food jingles. On vacations with Grandpa, there are no visits to drive-through windows. Instead, he packs pimento cheese sandwiches. He floats hard-boiled eggs, like so many round, white pickles, in jars of water, and he loads a separate cooler with cans of ice-cold soda pop and chocolate bars. . . .”
If you want to be a good writer, be a good observer of life (people, nature, experiences). Allow yourself to think and to daydream. Then, write your unique thoughts, your own descriptions, your special details. Make it a little game: How can I say this in a way that none of my classmates will say it? If you will give your written words the freedom to be as interesting as the thoughts inside your head, I believe you will start to look forward to writing as much as I do.
More than a decade before I was published, I knew I was a writer. It was a whisper in my heart that never ceased. I heard it in music. I heard it in teachers’ meetings. Though my pastors never looked at me and said, “Write!”—that is what I heard in the majority of their sermons. When I watched movies or read books about writers, I identified. The act of writing gave me energy.
I know, fellow writer, you understand all this. You hear that whisper too. Emmit Fox wrote:
The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about. . . that is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul—the dawning of that secret dream—was the Voice of God telling you to arise and come up higher because He had need of you.
Though you may have a folder bulging with rejection letters, you are a writer. Keep writing. Keep enjoying your gift. Keep sending. And, know that dreams do come true!
One book that helped me on my journey to publication is You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey Dils. Dils shows how to format a manuscript before sending it to an editor. She also gives examples of cover letters and query letters.
When you are at the library or the bookstore, take note of the publishers of your favorite children’s books. Look at those publishers’ websites when you get home to see if they accept unsolicited manuscripts. If so, send them your best work and start thinking about how you will feel when you get that acceptance call!
May your writing bless the world,