Just Write, by Walter Dean Myers

I recently read a book called Just Write, by Walter Dean Myers. I borrowed this book from the library but plan to buy it for the classroom one day, as soon as I begin teaching writing again. In fact, I may use portions of this book as I teach Monster, a novel by Mr. Myers, later this year to my reading students.

Because I borrowed the book from the library, I did not feel right about underlining and/or highlighting in it, but these were some quotes I thought were especially poignant.

“I’m often asked why I write for young people. My own experiences as a teenager were so intense that I keep coming back to the period of my life to explore and to make sense of it in a way that defines who I am today. I’ve used my own experiences to understand the characters I write about. What I do is fairly simple. I write books for the troubled boy once was, and for the boy who lives within me still” (5).

About the power of the written word: “I believe in that power deeply. Through literature, the reader and the writer provided with a vehicle for direct communication. Every individual is unique, but through writing we can reach out and, hopefully, meet somewhere in the middle. We can understand a person we’ve never met and know a place we’ve never seen” (5).

“Reading and writing can also bring us closer to our own inner selves. As we identify and empathize with other people, we reaffirm our own abilities to make that human connection. We remember we are not really that different. There are elements of the experience of living that we all share” (5-6).

“I had a lot of chances to get on a bad path as a teenager, but instead I went to the library. The world inside my head was richly furnished with ideas I got from books, and provided an escape the dangerous world around me” (12).

“I tell the young people I meet to read. Read everything you can, looking for the ideas that give you hope to expand your sense of what’s possible. If you can’t find something you’re looking for in a book, write it yourself. Try to get published. You have stories other kids might need to read. You have stories should be heard. Maybe a reader will find your book on the timing is just right and it will help save a life. So just write” (12-13).

“When kids get into trouble, it’s not the last thing they did to get them there. It’s an attitude that they come up with that leads them slowly down this path. In order to escape, at some point, they have to change. It’s not so much a matter of whether or not they are released, because of their release but don’t change your attitude, Amanda back in the system. It’s only when they realize that they have to take responsibility, and in it with a went wrong, they can start moving in a new direction” (81-82).

“I believe we can help these kids. We have to give them a voice. We have to given language. We have to say to them, “look. I know you’re mad at society, but you can’t be mad at yourself. You can’t give up trying.” We have to have elevated conversations with these kids. We have to tell them, “okay, this is what life is about.” These kids don’t know. We have to tell them, “You can’t hate yourself anymore. You have to reach within yourself, because no one is going to do it for you” (129).

Top 10 Writing Tips from Walter Dean Myers

  1. You don’t need permission to be a writer. Just start doing it.
  2. To write well, you have to know a good writing is. For me, this means reading good literature on a regular basis.
  3. The time I spent pre-writing usually predicts whether I will sell the book or not. The time I spend rewriting usually predicts the success of the book.
  4. If the problem in your story or essay is crystal clear in your mind, the writing will be infinitely easier.
  5. Anyone who loves the process of writing – creating characters, exploring the logical store your argument, using language to convey thoughts and feelings – can become a successful writer.
  6. Writers block is not a matter of having nothing to write. It’s a matter of not having given the project sufficient thought.
  7. I can write a better twenty-page story if I write five pages a day for four days rather than writing twenty pages at one time.
  8. Learn how to accept criticism of your work. It will make you a better writer.
  9. If, starting at the age of fourteen, you write to good pages per day for five days each week, you’ll probably be rich and famous by the time you’re twenty-five. Okay, maybe twenty-seven.
  10. Push yourself to continually expand your own horizons. Challenge yourself as an individual to keep your mind and heart open to new growth experiences.

6 Box Model for Fiction

Box 1: Introduce the main character and the problem he faces.

Box 2: Explain why the problem is complex and can’t be solved by any simple solution.

Box 3: Explain why it’s so important that the main character figure out a solution to the problem.

Box 4: Show the main character undergoing change of some sort.

Box 5: Show the main character deciding to do something about the problem and taking action.

Box 6: Show how everything turns out for the main character.

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