Guest Post: Our Story Begins by Elissa Brent Weissman

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I am so happy to have Elissa Brent Weissman on the blog today. It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to writing your own story, so Elissa has kindle provided ten books to read when searching for inspiration for your own book.


Top Ten Reads for Aspiring Writers
by Elissa Brent Weissman

10. The best books in the genre or category you want write.

Do you want to write mysteries? Read mysteries. Historical fiction? You know what to look for. Picture books? Read, read, read. As you read, pay attention to the format, structure, and themes of the genre. Try to pinpoint what you love about these books. How can you write something that will appeal to other readers who love these books? How will your story fit in on this shelf? How will it stand out?

9. The worst books you can find.

Reading great writing is instructive and inspiring, but so is reading terrible writing. Don’t abandon books that frustrate you—they can be a great lesson in craft. What did the author do wrong? What would you have done differently? Use these awful books as motivation to go write something better.

8. Works-in-progress by other aspiring writers.

Enroll in a class, join a critique group, or exchange drafts with a friend. Having to provide constructive feedback on someone else’s work will sharpen your critical eye and help you approach your own writing in a new way. Having to hear constructive feedback on your own works-in-progress will help you revise, and it will thicken your skin for when you’re ready to submit for publication. And my favorite, most effective part of being in a writers’ group: Deadlines!

7. The 3 A.M. Epiphany and The 4 A.M. Breakthrough by Brian Kitely

Yes, I’m finally listing specific books! And they’re excellent ones, filled with the most original, thought-provoking, and practical exercises to get your creative juices flowing. These prompts and challenges will give you tons of ideas of stories. Even better, they’re fun!

6. Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine

This wonderful book by Our Story Begins contributor Gail Carson Levine is aimed at young writers, but it is among the best books on craft that I’ve found for writers of any age. Organized by elements of fiction (plot, dialogue, setting, etc.), each chapter contains a brief lesson, many helpful examples, and a targeted writing prompt. And each chapter ends with the best advice of all: “Have fun! Save what you write.”

5. Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mark Kole

Literary agent Mary Kole provides a thorough, straightforward, practical explanation of the children’s book landscape and market. Her business-minded perspective and experience makes for invaluable advice for writing a book that will sing—and sell.

4. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

You’ve probably read them already, in which case this is a good excuse to read them again. If you’ve been refusing to read them based on some grand principle, reconsider. There’s a reason these books have been so enormously successful. Rowling is a master of characterization, plotting, setting, dialogue, symbolism, and just about every other component of storytelling. Plus, they’re just so good. Every aspiring muggle writer can benefit from time at Hogwarts.

3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Written in a variety of narrative forms (emails, letters, flyers, reports, etc.), this hilarious book follows 15-year-old Bee as she tries to figure out where her mother, eccentric architect Bernadette Fox, has disappeared to. Maria Semple makes every one of the many characters and voices unique, so the alternative structure never feels gimmicky. It’s a great example of how, with the right hands at the wheel, the best approach might be an unconventional one.

2. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

How I love this book. Find the original prose text, technically called Peter and Wendy, and prepare to be blown away. Yes, there are pirates and crocodiles and kids who fly and boys who don’t grow up, but it’s not so much for children as it is about childhood. The real beauty, however, is in the details. J. M. Barrie writes sentences that are so playful, so perfect, they take my breath away. Read to be awed; here’s a master at work.

1. Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids

Cop out? Maybe. But I’m a proud editor, and the 25 contributors who shared their childhood stories deserve to be called out for their greatness. There’s so much to take away from this book, but here’s the main thing for aspiring writers: Everyone starts somewhere. Your story is beginning too. Where will it go?


About the book

Our Story Begins CoverOur Story Begins by Elissa Brent Weissman
Publication Date: July 4th 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers 
Genre: Non-fiction, Middle Grade, Anthology
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
Official Summary

Compiled by award-winning author Elissa Brent Weissman, OUR STORY BEGINS presents some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators such as Marla Frazee, Alex Gino, Gail Carson Levine, Gordon Korman, and R. J. Palacio. The authors reveal their quirky, smart, vulnerable, youthful selves through their early writings and drawings, amazing us with their nascent talent and showing us the storytellers they would someday become, inspiring kids everywhere.

Everyone’s story begins somewhere…

*For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license.
*For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw.
*For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day—and perfected through draft after discarded draft.
*For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of words, and pictures, and stories.

With its combination of short essays written specifically for this anthology, childhood photos, and actual work produced by the contributors as kids, there’s nothing quite like it out there. This collection contains a wonderfully wide variety of contributors, of all different backgrounds, experiences, races, ages, voices, styles, bodies of work, and more.OUR STORY BEGINS is a must-have for any kid with creative impulses…so really, any kid!


About the author

Elissa Weissman credit Alisha Shaw

Photo by Alisha Shaw

Elissa Brent Weissman is an award-winning author of novels for 8-to-12-year olds. 

Her most recent books, Nerd Camp 2.0 and Nikhil and the Geek Retreat, are follow-ups to the critically acclaimed Nerd Camp, which was named a best summer read for middle graders in TheWashington Post. The Short Seller, about a seventh grade stock-trading whiz, was a Girls’ Life must-read and featured on NPR’s “Here and Now.”  
 
This July the collection she edited Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew asKids, will be available. Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults.  
For more information head on over to her official website.
What are your tips for aspiring writers?
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