Lesson 4 for Young or New Writers, written by Rose McClimon Hamlin

Lesson 4: A Writing Writer!

By Rose McClimon Hamlin

“What are you doing?” she asked her brother.
The boy threw off his seat belt and jumped out of their car idling in front of the red light. The boy jogged across the street to where an old man sat on an upside down bucket. He quickly stood, his naked torso towering over the young teen. The boy pulled a small wad of money out of his front jean pocket and shuffled his fingers through the dollar bills until selecting the center bill. The boy hastily folded the bill twice until the amount wasn’t visibly known.

“Why don’t you give me the wad and you can have the rest?” said the man. He had no teeth and his voice was gruff as a rusty engine. Long straggling hair hung down his back long as his beard blowing across his chest.
The man snatched the bill and stuffed it in his pocket. For a second the boy was saddened and confused. The wad was only dollar bills. The man gave no thanks as he rushed back to his car. “How much did you give him?” his sister asked.

The light turned green and they drove away.
“One hundred dollars.”
There is something to be said about nonfiction. The word ‘truth’ comes to my mind. The above writing is a small part of a true story about my younger brother; he was seventeen at the time. Daily the world surrounds people in grief and loss, possessions and victory. Some choose to float through life numb to it all as they crumble under life’s heavy burdens and others are joyous despite their trials. As writers these emotions and observations give us insight for the words, characters and plots to tell our stories. They are the life needed for fiction and the truth that inspires our non-fiction.
Submerging ourselves into our surroundings may mean having to step out of our comfort zones. It’s easy to drive by that person standing on the side of the road asking for help. Befriending the person at school that seems friendless and not so cool, standing against wrong such as bullying, well, what would other’s think? Fear is restricting. The same restrictions in our life can also find their way to our pages as we wonder what we should write. Below are a few suggestions that can change your writing and your life.

MEET PEOPLE! Get to know the people you see every day: class mates, teachers, bus drivers, cashiers, even if it’s small talk. I worked at a hospital for over a year before I took the time to talk to an elderly gentleman resident whom I learned was a famous boxer. When was the last time you had a good conversation with your siblings, parents or grandparents? We all have a story to tell. A writer is like an underwater diver searching for sunken treasure. People’s words are the stories we crave to bring to light. Your stories have the power to inspire others.
WRITE, WRITE, and THEN WRITE SOME MORE! Writing is something a writer should be doing every day. Set a ‘Word Count Goal’ that is achievable for you. Mine is 2,000 words a day and I may or may not write weekends. Don’t think your word count isn’t enough; there are no certain word count demands. If only 100 words get to paper at the end of your day, well that’s 100 more than no words at all. And after days, months and a year of commitment, there will be page after page after page of visible proof of your hard work.

RECEIVE CRITICISM CONSTUCTIVELY: Writing is hard work and not for the faint of spirit. Imagine for a moment two people sitting at a table with you, each of whom have just finished reading your recent work. The person to your left says, “I found it truly boring and a waste of my time.” The person on your right says, “Your words moved me, and I found myself unable to peel my eyes from the pages!” The first comment has the ability to crush your hopes, even your confidence. The second makes you feel good and excited to get back to work. Neither is right or wrong, they are both opinions. Ask questions like ‘Why did you find it boring?’ Learn from mistakes and strengthen your workmanship. Receive the compliments, yet you shouldn’t need them to verify that your work is worthy.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! You must first believe in you and your writing. How can a reader if you do not? You have a purpose. A part of you is drawn to writing and the expression of words. Writing is a form of art. I began to write my Young Adult book GUS as a grieving process. I had to learn to say good-bye to a part of my life I didn’t know how I was going to live without. Writing is a part of who I am; to deny this ability is to deny a part of me. You have what it takes to be the best; you only need to write, write, and write some more and never, ever give up.

Author Rose McClimon Hamlin enjoys freelance writing and her book 'Gus' is available through her website, www.anniesrose.com and through your local book store. Rose graduated from Rochester Technical College, Rochester Minnesota. She grew up on her family horse farm competing with her horses in barrel racing attending Rodeos, South Eastern Saddle Club (SEMSCA) shows and 4-H. She has three sons and a daughter and says she owes her success to her husband and family, but most importantly God. Today, she continues to work alongside her family training horses and can usually be found with her nose stuck in a book or typing away on her latest writing.

Lesson 3:  The Story on That!
by Rebeca Schiller

As part of the new Friday feature that covers grammar at www.rebecaschiller.com, I tackled the question of when to keep or drop "that." I went to two books to search for my answer,
<http://www.amazon.com/Practical-English-Usage-Michael-Swan/dp/019442099X/re f=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325273565&sr=8-1>Practical English Usage, Third Edition, by Michael Swan and <http://www.amazon.com/Joy-English-Jesse-Karjalainen/dp/184528478X/ref=sr_1_
1s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325273683&sr=1-1>The Joy of English by Jesse Karjalainen to see what these two gentlemen said about omitting "that" in various sentence structures.

According to Swan (and this is directly taken from the book): We can leave out the conjunction “that” in an informal style of writing such as:

1. Indirect speech: He said (that). . .
That can be left out informally after many common reporting verbs. Such as:
James said (that) he was feeling better.
I thought (that) you were in Ireland.
The waiter suggested (that) we should go home.

However, that cannot be dropped after certain verbs, especially intransitive verbs like reply, email, shout. For example:

James replied that he was feeling better.
She shouted that she was busy.

2. After adjectives: I'm glad you are all right.
We can leave out the “that” in clauses after some common adjectives.

I'm glad (that) you're all right.
It's funny (that) he hasn't written.
We were surprised (that) she came.

3. Not dropped after nouns.
That is not usually dropped after nouns. For example: I did not believe his claim that he was ill.
He disagreed with Copernicus' view that the earth went round the sun.

4. Conjunctions
That can be left out in an informal style in some common two-word conjunctions, such as so that, such . . . that, now that, providing that, supposing that, considering that, assuming that.

Come in quietly so (that) she doesn't hear you.
I was having such a nice time (that) I didn't want to leave.
The garden looks so nice now (that) we've got some flowers out.
You can borrow it provided (that) you bring it back tomorrow.
Assuming (that) nobody gets lost, we'll all meet again here at six o'clock.

5. Relative structures.
We can usually leave out the relative pronoun “that” when it is the object in a relative clause.

Look! There are the people (that) we met in Brighton.
Do it the way (that) I showed you.
In The Joy of English, Karjalainen argues the following: A lot of people skip that in informal, spoken English, but formal English requires it. In the same way that there exists a school of thought that argues that punctuation only gets in the way and slows the reader down.

Similarly, another school of thought regards the "clause connector" (conjunction) that as unnecessary. They argue (that) sentences become shorter, sharper and neater when that is removed. I am not convinced.
The danger with regularly removing that from your writing is that "neater" can lead to misunderstanding by the reader, as well as halting the reader's flow. Overall, the philosophy to keep in mind is this: take care to decide where and when to fade between formality and informality in your writing. The inclusion of that can be a significant marker of where your level of formalities lies. Be sure to include that where is deemed appropriate, and there is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, because it does no harm to always keep it in.

And that should cover that.
If you have questions about grammar, usage, syntax and punctuation, leave a comment at www.rebecaschiller.com and Rebeca will cover it in an upcoming Friday on her website. She is the online editor to Hand/Eye Magazine. http://www.handeyemagazine.com/

Lesson 2:  I want to write a story!

So, you want to learn to write stories, but you don't know how to begin. You don't have any ideas. You don't want to write something dumb. You've tried keeping a journal, but you soon get bored because you haven't done anything exciting.
You've never been kidnapped. You've never been to a foreign country. You've never gotten lost. You've never ran away from home.
In other words, your life is BORING!
Okay, here are several ideas for getting started. First, get a brand new notebook. It can be as fancy or as plain as you want. The book isn't important. What will soon be inside is what matters.
Now, write your name inside the cover. On the first page write a person's name, either boy or girl; it doesn't matter. Write a little bit about the person. This is your main character.

Next, write a few words describing a place. It can be a room, a field, a swimming pool, another country, or any place you’d like. Now add some more people and give them names. Tell something about each person. Don’t have too many characters, or readers will lose track of one or two.

Now you have your characters and the setting of your story. Next you need to have something happen, something exciting to make your reader want to find out more.
Does your character get in an accident, trip over a magic stone, fall into a creek, or see a stranger who looks like an alien? You can make anything happen. This is your story. The important part is to continue the story with interesting events and interesting characters.
Now you have a “skeleton” of a story. Turn to a clean page in your notebook and start writing. Don't worry about making spelling mistakes or erasing if you've changed your mind. Just cross out the errors and keep writing. This is your first draft, and it's sure to be messy.

When you run out of ideas, set the book aside and do something else for a while. You can return to it later and write more.

If you can't think of what to write, get a few magazines and cut out pictures of people, animals, places, and events. Parades, circuses, schoolrooms, tornados, fires, and any picture that catches your interest will make a good starting point.

Choose one of the pictures and start writing a story about something in the picture. Again, you need to name the characters and places. You can make your characters good or evil.

 After you've experimented with story beginnings, you may want to make one of your stories longer, more exciting, or sadder. But remember, your story isn't complete without having a problem that gets solved, a goal that is reached, or some kind of change in your main character.

Your story needs a beginning, where something happens, a middle, where more events occur to make the story interesting, and an end, where the problem is solved. This basic plan for your story can also be used if you decide to use animals, birds, or even fish as your characters. Remember, it's your story and you can tell it as you please.

Now get that notebook and start writing, and remember--this is your first draft. You will want to go back in a few days and improve it.

Margaret Hamill retired from teaching fourth grade and decided to take up writing. She has written several children's stories, four book manuscripts, many articles for a local newspaper, and has contributed to a writing magazine for children with stories to edit, as well as a marketing column. Margaret has also had three memoirs published in national magazines and two of her books have been published on CDrom. She has been the leader of two local writer's groups and is the co-administrator of an online writer's group for those wanting to write stories for children or young adults.

Lesson 1. I'm very excited to announce that the former editors of My Little Magazine (a print pub. for young writers) have decided to bring back the fun articles that helped young writers years ago, and still can!
Circle-back Endings
A lot of stories are like a journey. The story starts with one idea, then travels around a bit, taking this corner and that, then comes to a close, the finishing line. When the ending answers a question, finishes a specific plan, or completes the thought raised in the beginning of the story (in paragraph one), the story has a circle-back ending.
Knowing this in advance makes planning the story easier. First you think of a thought, maybe a feeling or mood, like boredom. Starting with boredom tells you to create a character who is bored, and to show why the character is bored.
Next, figure out where the character can go or what can happen to stop the boredom. What could turn a boring day into a fun day? Something exciting should happen. For the ending, though, you need to find a way to come back to the boredom. Either show the excitement and fun dwindling away, or make the character thankful the boredom is finally gone.
Keep writing until the best idea hits you. Stretch it out a bit, and come back to it in the end. Maybe the character will realize he or she has the secret to end boredom – creating his or her own adventure. See Michelle Schubbe’s (age 8) circle-back ending story below.
Schools out!

It’s the last day of school. I’m bummed. All my friends are happy. I’m going to miss Mrs. M. and Mrs. L a lot. Mom said I could invite my friends over to spend the night. We are going to sleep outside in a tent, even though we are only nine years old.
“Margaret, clean your room,” said Mom.
“I will,” I said. I ran up the stairs to my room, threw my dolls into their crib, made my bed, then shoved Lincoln logs, books, and stuffed toys under my bed.
            “Mom, my room is done,” I hollered. “Can I call my friends now?”
She said, “Yes,” so I did.
Meredith and Amanda came right over. We watched “Now and Then,” a really cool movie about four girls who are really good friends. Then we put on facial cream to keep pimples from forming.
Later we went to the city pool. It was open until nine o’clock. We all wore our identical bikinis. We swam for three hours. Then we went home and read The Ugly Duckling. That night we slept for a long time. In the morning my friends went home. I was bummed again.

*** See how the ending returns to the mood or thought expressed in the beginning of the story? Now you try a story with a circle-back ending.


  1. Enchanting, and so full of good solid advice. Marvelously written. Thanks.

  2. Love the clear way this lesson is set out.