by Naomi Kinsman
When I visit classrooms to speak about my books, a top question from students is, “How can I become an author?” In part, this question concerns the mysterious publishing world. However, the question is also about process. When book-loving kids turn the final page of a memorable novel and read, “The End,” often their minds start to spin. They wonder: What kind of book might I write?
Many times, this intriguing question leads a writer to grab a journal, flip to the first page and start to draft. As the plot develops, their book becomes a new kind of story experience, one in which the writer explores uncharted territory. The writer is now the very first reader of a currently-unfolding story. Anything might happen—the only limit is the writer’s imagination.
It’s a heady experience, and dedicated writers might start four, eight or even twelve books simply to feel that thrill of excitement. Notice the word “start.” In my experience, most writers who dive into novels in this passion-driven way abandon their book projects part-way through.
Let’s return to that creative student, asking, “How can I become an author?” In all likelihood, this questioner has started at least one book project, or is, at the very least, noodling over a book idea. The question underneath the question is, “How do I finish writing a book?” That’s where the Launch Your Novel Workshop comes in. In this one-day workshop, each writer explores a variety of story concepts, seeking out one that truly captures his or her curiosity. Once they settle on an idea, we begin the building process. Stories are constructed in layers, and strategizing about the initial layers before starting the drafting process saves writers from headaches and discouragement later on.
In our most recent Launch Your Novel Workshop at Gifted Support Center in San Mateo, a few of the writers expressed concern as we kicked off the planning process. They wondered: Is my idea any good? We discussed the situation—how fledgling ideas tend to feel flighty compared to finished, polished novels we’ve read and loved. We decided to give our ideas room to grow, and see what would happen.
Over the course of the day, we crafted characters, mapped out story worlds and sketched plot storyboards. With each step, the writers became more confident and enthusiastic about their book concepts. Rather than seeing the road ahead as a foggy stumble toward a possible story, they could see the steps they’d need to take in order to move from idea to finished draft.
At the end of the workshop, I met with each writer to strategize a drafting plan. Each had different circumstances with school, activities, and schedules. However, no matter how busy their lives, their plot storyboards made it possible to set tangible, realistic milestones throughout the drafting process. Each writer also set a projected due date for their finished draft. As they packed up their writing materials and headed home, each writer wore a confident smile, ready to tackle their exciting—and challenging—projects.
How does one become an author? The answer is, one writes. To me, the more interesting question is why. Why should one write a book? Writing a book sharpens your perspective, heightens your empathy and develops your resilience. Or, put another way, the writing process is not only fun, but a powerful growth opportunity, and well worth the effort.
If you have a book project started or are noodling over an idea, we’d love to have you at our next Launch Your Novel Workshop on August 8 in the Bay Area. Just like in the previous workshop, we’ll give our ideas room to grow, set some goals, and set a realistic plan to bring your book idea to life.