Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Write by Walter Dean Myers

Myers, Walter DeanJust Write: Here’s How!  New York: Collins, 2012.

Walter Dean Myers is an author of mostly of books for children and young adults.  That is the primary audience for Just Write: Here’s How!

Myers makes no bones about it.  Writing is hard work.  Myers, and he believes most other successful writers, has a process that helps he prepare for, write, and complete books.  A writer needs to love the process of writing if he hopes to complete books and have them be of good quality.

Having said that, Just Write is not a highly technical book.  Myers’ process if fairly straightforward.  He uses a simple outline to get started (actually two: one for fiction and one for nonfiction).  He fleshes these out into more detailed outlines.

Preparation is important to Meyers.  Partly this is the hard work of putting together a good outline and developing an understanding of your main character.  He also advocates plenty of research.  Writers, especially when they are young, write about things they haven’t experienced personally, and research will serve both as a personal education and a source of authenticity for the book.

Don’t skimp on preparation and don’t shy away for rewriting.  Myers considers rewriting important.  He welcomes input from his editor that will make his books better.

Many examples come from Myers’ experience.  He especially draws upon his unexpectedly pleasant success co-writing Kick with Ross Workman, a teenager at the time they collaborated.  The process of working on Kick and other books provides illustrations for the points he makes.  He holds up Workman as an example of someone with the attitude, work ethic, an especially interest in the process of writing that leads to success as a writer.  Workman had the diligence and humility to learn, deal with feedback, and follow his book through to the end.

Workman also experienced the kind of crisis of confidence that Myers thinks is typical.  A young writer will need to face this crisis and find the courage to continue and improve his work.

Myers’ style in this book is informal, conversational and direct.  It is also personal.  He writes about how he came to be a writer and how it has affected his life.  He writes with a purpose, and that broader purpose to connect to and help kids has led him to speak to kids in trouble both to understand and to encourage them.  Though written for youth, it may be a good place to start for budding writers of any age.

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