CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 6. . . .October 10, 2014
Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens.
Kitchener, ON: Saugeen Publications, 2014.
66 pp., trade pbk., $7.49.
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Kristin Butcher.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
When you write a story you see the movie of it in your head. You see what the characters are doing while they are talking. You picture their clothes and their facial expressions and hear the changes in their tone of voice when they are speaking. Your job as a writer is to let the reader see the same movie.
Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens follows in the footsteps of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens and attempts to provide the same sort of how-to-write assistance, but for a slightly younger audience. Longer than the first resource guide—this one comes in at 66 pages, covering primarily the same ground from goal setting and tapping ideas to character-building and writers' block. Wright's explanations are clear, concise, and illuminating, without talking down to the user. The guide would be a useful resource even for adults.
The problem is that the book is intended for children 10 to 12-years-old, and much of the information—though useful for older writers—isn't pertinent to this group. For example: Chapter 2 discusses the needs of a writer and lists a number of experts, providing links to their websites. I can already see the kids' eyes glazing over. Perhaps such resources could be mentioned at the end of the guide, but set at the beginning, budding writers might be turned off. Chapter 3 explores choosing goals and stresses the importance of trying to find time to write every day. At this age, writing should be fun, which Wright does point out, but regimenting it into a schedule may well detract from that fun. Likewise, Wright encourages young writers to carry a notebook with them to jot down ideas or put them on a smartphone or tablet. This is a great idea for older writers, but most kids aren't going to carry notebooks with them, and I sure hope they don't have cell phones. Chapter 4 looks at the difference between pantsers and plotters. For young writers just getting their feet wet, does this really matter? Wright also introduces the idea of writing a novel/novella, which is pretty ambitious.
At the end of a few chapters, Wright has included exercises to illustrate the skills addressed and to provide young writers with a means of practicing them. These are great. In fact, the book would benefit from more of them. Young writers want to jump in and go, and these practice exercises are excellent motivators. Instead of showing the boring/wrong way to write something and then providing the better version, Wright could encourage the users of the guide to attempt their own improved rewrite. She could insert her version at the end of the book for kids to compare their work with afterwards.
One of the bonuses of the guide is that it includes Wright's website address, which she encourages young writers to visit regularly to ask her questions and even offer up samples of their writing. I'm sure many young writers looking for feedback would happily take advantage of this.
The information in this resource guide is excellent; I'm just not sure it's right for the targeted audience. It seems to be intended for individuals writing in their own time. I would think that's a very limited group. With a bit of tweaking, the guide might better be used in a classroom to enhance the existing writing program.
Recommended with Reservations.
Kristin Butcher, a former middle school teacher, lives in Campbell River and writes fiction for children and teens.
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