Tips to Help Young Writers Bring Scenes to Life

No matter your age, if you’re a writer, you’ve heard someone talk about showing rather than telling. On the other hand, anyone who has read a too-long scene also knows that sometimes less is more. So, when should we tell stories in moment-to-moment scenes? When should we use summary? This week’s Facebook Live session is packed with tips to help young writers find the most important scenes in their stories and bring them to life.

Don’t miss this week’s printable, a quick activity to help writers slow down and strategize about how to make the most out of the important scenes in the story. We’ll play our way through it in the session, so snag it now by entering your email below and make sure to sharpen your pencil! Join us live on Facebook or catch the replay here anytime.


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Are You an Architect?

Every thinker is unique. Still, I’d like to introduce you to four creativity styles.  You’ll likely find that one (or possibly two) of these personalities fits you best. The point of taking the quiz and exploring your creative style isn’t to stuff yourself into a limiting box, but rather to understand why some strategies work better for you than others

We’re moving on to the second of the four creative styles: The Architect.


Today, let’s talk about the Architect.

If you have an eye for detail and find it easy to roll up your sleeves and work step-by-step through a project once you have a starting place, you have the mind of an Architect. Every detail is important to the Architect.


An Architect’s Strengths:

  • Details are a breeze for you.
  • Your thinking is structured and you can break projects into step-by-step action.
  • You are a strong planner and complete projects on track and on time.


An Architect’s Weaknesses:

  • The big picture can be difficult to see.
  • Once a plan is in place, it can be difficult to redirect when obstacles arise.
  • Starting can be a challenge if you can’t see the best starting place.


Here are some structured strategies that tend to work well for Architects.

At the Start of a Project:

  • Skeleton the Project in Lists. 

List the elements of the project as categories. Then, use each category to make a sub-list. Keep breaking down, adding to, and reorganizing your lists until you have built a solid structure for the project.


  • Use a Well-Known Structure.

Rather than facing a blank page, use a well-known structure to start your planning process. Designing a product? Use the design thinking model. Creating a novel? Use the Hero’s Journey framework. Research a structure that has worked for others, and begin your building process from this tried-and-true starting point.


During Drafting:

  • Create an Outline with Due Dates

Title each chapter, section or stage of your project. Create a bulleted list under each title to explain the basics of what that section of the project will hold. Then, create a timeline that feels realistic and motivating with due dates. Then, as you draft, use the outline as a checklist. Don’t be afraid to revise it as you go!


  • Starting and Ending Rituals

Drafting can be messy and difficult for Architects. Help your mind ease into this free-thinking space by creating a three-step process for starting your writing sessions and for ending them. Consider setting a timer and working for a set amount of time, too.


While Revising:

  • Use a “Fix-It” List

Read through the entire manuscript and note the elements that should be addressed. Before revising, sort your list so you can work on related issues at the same time, and in the order that makes the most sense.


  • Choose a Revision Focus

Rather than allowing yourself to deal with all of the details at once, use your laser focus to look at one element at a time. Character, plot, dialogue, setting and word choice are all elements you may want to look at, one at a time.


When You Feel Stuck:

  • Working/Not Working List

When too many problems pile up, you may find yourself lost in the details. Pull back and make two lists. What’s working? What’s not working? Look over these lists and see if the fresh perspective gives you a new shortcut around the problem.


  • Fill Up Your Creative Tank

Ideas need fuel. If you feel stuck, wander around a museum, a park or a farmer’s market. Places with interesting sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and shapes are particularly useful for stocking up your creative tank.

But don’t get too comfortable! That’s how creative ruts happen. You’ll want to also try on other creative styles every once in a while to shake things up.


Try On Other Styles:

An Architect is similar to a Special Agent in that they both think in a structured way. However, the Special Agent thinks more holistically and sees the whole picture rather than the details. If you start to lose your way while you’re wading through details, try on the Special Agent’s hat. Imagine you are using a zoom lens, and zoom back from your details to the larger picture. If you have an outline or a checklist, consult this document and let yourself consider the full project. Then, use your analytical thinking skills to prioritize details and let go of the ones that may not matter at the moment.


Like Architects, Collaborators are detail oriented. Collaborators need to think about the details in order to work well with others. Collaborators tend to take a more playful approach than Architects, however. If you’re feeling stuck, you might want to pair up with a Collaborator and brainstorm solutions. Consider your own strengths and how you might use the expertise of others to move the project forward. You might need an advisor, a peer, or an expert to help you out. If you’re finishing up a book, for instance, and images aren’t your thing, you might want to work with someone with a knack for drawing or design to help you make the project all it can be.


The Architect has a structured attention to detail, a thinking style that is the Inventor’s opposite. However, even Architects can benefit from loosening up and trying a more playful approach. Try a very loose game of “What If…” Explore the possibilities without worrying about what will work best. Once you have a list, go back and highlight options and ideas that seem most workable.


So what do you think?

Are you an Architect? If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to take our creative styles quiz to learn more about the way you think. We’ll also send you an Inklings Starter Kit with more strategies and ideas to help you play to your unique strengths.

Are You an Inventor? Take the Creative Styles Quiz to Find Out!

Every thinker is unique. Still, I’d like to introduce you to four creativity styles.  You’ll likely find that one (or possibly two) of these personalities fits you best. The point of taking the quiz and exploring your creative style isn’t to stuff yourself into a limiting box, but rather to understand why some strategies work better for you than others.

The world is full of people who think and create in different ways. That’s why sometimes the advice you get from your mom or your teacher or your best friend frustrates you. Especially when you’re stuck, you need to play to your strengths. Understanding your style will help you to sort out the ideas, activities, and strategies that are most likely to help you move forward.

Today, let’s meet the Inventor.

If ideas rattle and clatter around in your mind constantly, chances are, you think like an Inventor.  Seeing the big picture is important to the Inventor, and an Inventor’s creative process is full of color, laughter and play.


An Inventor’s Strengths:

  • New ideas come easily.
  • Challenges are an opportunity to play and experiment.
  • Almost as soon as an idea arrives, an Inventor sees the big-picture vision.


An Inventor’s Weaknesses:

  • Details can bog an Inventor down.
  • New ideas can lead an Inventor to start too many projects at once.
  • When a project isn’t fun, an Inventor can lose heart.


Here are some playful strategies that tend to work well for Inventors.

At the Start of a Project:

  • Play What if…?
Before beginning a project, explore the possibilities by creating a list of “What if …?” questions. Let the sky be the limit and see what new doors and windows open up as you continue to follow your imagination.
  • Brainstorm the Opposite

As an Inventor, you have a strong capacity for seeing possibilities. Explore the opposite of your idea to see what new perspective this upside-down look at your project brings.


During Drafting:

  • Try a Sprint
Focus your creative energy and build momentum by setting a timer and working intensely for a short amount of time. Start with five-ten minute sprints, but feel free to work up to longer sprints, if you like.
  • Try Three

Instead of forcing yourself to create perfection on the first pass, create three loose options and then further develop the one that works best.


While Revising:

  • Storyboard with Index Cards
Step back from the project and use your big-picture superpowers to play with the overall structure. Use index cards so you can move items around, add, subtract, and find the flow that works best.
  • Improvise through Possibilities

Use improvisation to drill down to the specifics. Keep a playful spirit, and try out options aloud to keep your momentum high as you build one decision upon the next.


When You Feel Stuck:

  • Create a Collage
Tap into your visual thinking by creating a collage using magazines or online images. A collage can help you explore theme, characters, setting, plot, tone, rhythm, color, and many other aspects of your creative work.
  • Fill Up Your Creative Tank

Ideas need fuel. If you feel stuck, wander around a museum, a park or a farmer’s market. Places with interesting sounds, smells, tastes, textures and shapes are particularly useful for stocking up your creative tank.


Try On Other Styles:

Don’t get too comfortable! That’s how creative ruts happen. You’ll want to also try on other creative styles every once in a while to shake things up.

Special Agent:
An Inventor is similar to a Special Agent in that they both see the big picture. However, the Special Agent is more focused and streamlined. If you feel distracted by a plethora of ideas, try on the Special Agent’s hat. Visualize the next part of the project fully before starting, mentally exploring options until you feel sure about your direction. Then, use the sprint strategy to take the next step forward.

Like Inventors, Collaborators are playful. Collaborators also tend to be detail oriented in order to work with others. In addition, Collaborators are more others-focused. When you need to get into the details and are feeling overwhelmed, try working with a partner or a team. Break the project into pieces together and commit to deadlines and a workflow that helps move the project from messy to complete.

The Architect has a structured attention to detail, a thinking style that is the Inventor’s opposite. However, even Inventors can benefit from making a list or two. Try playfully putting on the Architect’s hat when you’re feeling the need for some serious structure. Make an icon-filled, colorful list that helps you see the path from overwhelmed to back-on-track.


So what do you think?

Are you an Inventor? If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to take our creative styles quiz to learn more about the way you think. We’ll also send you an Inklings Starter Kit with more strategies and ideas to help you play to your unique strengths.

Submit to the Inklings Book Contest…We’ll Write You Back

If you’ve spent any time with us, you’ve probably gathered that it’s Inklings Book Contest season here at Society of Young Inklings. We’ve been talking about our writing contest since January and now we’re in the final days of the submission period. As we wind down, we wanted to share the heart behind the contest. It’s not about competition—it’s about encouraging young writers.


Mentor Loraine McCormick with Inkling Louisa Pflaum at our 2017 Inklings Book Party


I started Society of Young Inklings because in second grade I had the chance to meet an author and talk with her about my writing. She looked me in the eye and said, “You’re an author.” Her belief in me made me believe in myself. When I started publishing books for young readers, one half of my lifelong dream came true. Society of Young Inklings came out of the other half of my dream—finding ways to connect creative youth with pros. The Inklings Book Contest is one of the most impactful ways we make that connection.


Writers deal with silence all the time. It’s heartbreaking to work on a piece for months (usually years!), work up the courage to submit it to an agent or editor, and receive only silence in reply. Our mentor team understands this reality. We know how silence feels because at one point or another in our careers, we’ve all experienced it. The reality of the publishing market is that agents and editors don’t have time to reply to every submission … in fact, they can only reply to a very small percentage of what comes across their desks. We wanted our writing contest to be different. We’re delighted that the Inklings Book Contest offers us the opportunity to band together and do what no one of us could do on our own. While one of us couldn’t possibly write back to 300 applicants, a team of pro volunteers absolutely can—which means that none of our writing contest applicants will have to hear that discouraging silence. Whether they win, are a finalist, or simply receive a note of encouragement in response to their application, every writer has the opportunity to learn and grow when they take part in the Inklings Book Contest.


If you’re a youth writer and you haven’t already, start working on your submission and send it in by March 15. We can’t wait to hear from you. If you’re an educator, a parent, or someone who knows a creative youth who has a voice that needs to be heard, please share the Inklings Book Contest. And if you’re a creative pro and you want to be part of this amazing collaborative feedback extravaganza, let us know. We’d love to have you as part of our community.


We dream that each year, more youth and more pros will come together for this meaningful collaboration. We’re celebrating youth voices and creative growth. Each application that flies into our inbox is another point of connection—one youth to one pro—and we all grow and gain perspective from the process.


In creativity,

Inklings Book Flash Fundraising Sale

by Naomi Kinsman

Inklings Book Party 2017


A few years back, Make a Wish Foundation transformed the city of San Francisco into the landscape of a little boy’s dreams. He became Batman, and we gathered to imagine right along with him. When I think of the thousands of people gathered to cheer him on, my eyes still well up with tears.


We don’t realize how powerful we are. We look at the challenges in our world and think:


I don’t have enough money.
I don’t have enough time.
I don’t have enough influence.


The truth is, we have all of those things. Maybe not on our own, but when we choose to come together, we most certainly do.


We’d like to invite you to give small, mightily. Your gift, multiplied by the strength of community, helps youth unleash their powerful voices. Here’s how you can give.


  1. Donate $35 and receive an Inklings Book during our Flash Fundraising Sale. The proceeds of your gift directly support our Inklings Book editorial letter writing campaign and mentorship of youth writers.
  2. Share the campaign far and wide. Help us spread the word on social media and in your community.
  3. Read the book—truly savor it—and then write a review or tell a friend. As a reader, you give youth a meaningful opportunity … the chance to touch your heart.


When we write a story or a poem, we aren’t only putting words on a page. Our words are made up of the fabric of our lives, the texture of our experiences, the tone of our perspective. When we see our words on the page in sharply defined lines, we can’t help but reflect: is that truly the world as I see it? The act of writing changes us, and sharing our writing gives us a glimpse of our impact. Through our words, we help others see what we see. And when we see in new ways, we are changed.


Put simply, stories and poems have the power to change the world. But first, they change us.


Be a part of something small but mighty this week. Donate to receive an Inklings Book during our Flash Fundraising Sale. Help youth tap into their powerful, world-changing voices.


Give Today

Imagine a Setting


In January, we interviewed Lauren Wolk for our monthly Ink Splat and issued a writing challenge all about setting. Pranav Butney, age 12, took us up on the challenge!  Here’s the prompt and Pranav’s response:


Imagine a setting where you’d like to spend time. Consider the sights, smells, sounds, taste and feel of the place. Write a description of the setting, and in your very last sentence, introduce a character who fits perfectly into the space you’ve created.


On a forlorn tropical island, there was a small beach where animals lived in peace, away from most humans. The only thing that showed signs of humanity was a beach hut made of straw. The smell of the salty ocean spread over the beach like a blanket. The sand was the color of caramel, and as soft as silk. The ocean was a bright aqua and quite translucent. The ocean was quite calm, with rarely any waves, and if there were any, they were very small. The fish were rainbow-colored, with very bright and vibrant colors. The cove was silent with only the ‘caw’ of the seabirds. The beach itself was empty except for the seagulls, the palm trees swaying with the breeze like hula dancers, and the hut. But then, a man came out of the beach hut, wearing a neon orange Hawaiian shirt, wearing a white fedora, his pitch black hair sticking out through some areas of his fedora, with twinkling eyes the color of Nutella, with his skin the color of coffee.


by Pranav Butney


Are you up for the challenge, too? Check out any of our monthly Ink Splats for a challenge prompt and send it on over. We love reading work from our Inklings! Join our mailing list and never miss an Ink Splat. Entering your email below and you’ll hear from us with each new edition.



February 2018 Ink Splat: Marilyn Hilton

This month, we’re interviewing Marilyn Hilton about her book, Full Cicada Moon. Marilyn talks to us about her writing process, her inspiration for the book, and how she chose to deal with a delicate topic with “wonder and terror and awe.”

Keep reading! As always, we’ve got a writing challenge for you, a fantastic interview, and some updates about Society of Young Inklings. Want to catch up? Check out last month’s Ink Splat here.


Writing Challenge

This week’s challenge comes straight from Marilyn: To start a writing session, I often set a timer and write as fast as I can, about something on my mind, a scene, or an idea. Ten minutes is a good sprint, as it’s long enough for my mind to move into a creative zone. And by the time ten minutes is up, I want to keep writing.


Submit your responses by emailing and you might be published on our website!

An Interview with author Marilyn Hilton

Full Cicada Moon is written in verse, but you have also written previous novels in prose. How do you choose which style to write in? What impact do you think this style choice has on readers?

The character, the character’s situation and personality, and the tone of the story have dictated how I tell the story. My first novel, Found Things, was written in first-person point of view and present tense. It was just the way that story needed to be told, and how River (the main character) needed to tell it. But Full Cicada Moon is more introspective and closer to the tender places in the main character, Mimi, so telling her story in free verse felt just right for her. Verse has an intimacy and immediacy that can take the reader deep into the story and the heart of the character. And the arrangement of lines on the page allow the reader to provide unsaid words and unstated thoughts and feelings better, I think, than prose.
In the book I’m writing now, two characters tell their stories—one in prose and the other in free verse. Each style suits the particular character.


In the acknowledgments of Full Cicada Moon you write, “I wrote Mimi’s story in wonder and terror and awe, not knowing if I could or should write it.” Why did you write it, and why did you question whether you should?

I wanted to write a story about a mixed-race girl who wanted to be an astronaut at a time when girls weren’t encouraged to pursue scientific careers. My children are mixed race and have never known a time when they couldn’t have the career they aspire to. But there were no books with a character like them or a story like theirs, so I decided to write it. Actually, because of them, I felt compelled to write it. But I knew I would need to approach the story with much respect, and as a quiet and observant guest in Mimi’s world.


What’s the most difficult part of your creative process? Most surprising?

The most difficult part for me is having the courage to sit down and write—to create something out of nothing—and believe that even bad writing has value, because the practice brings me closer to good writing. I’ve been writing for years, but that fear is always present. Over time, though, I’ve come to understand that the fear is part of the creative process, and have learned to push through it and write anyway.

The most surprising part of the creative process are those moments when inextricable beauty flows from me, through my fingers, and onto the page. And that is joyous! It surprises me because I never plan it—it just comes from somewhere deep inside. Those are often the passages that readers connect with most strongly. And a story is complete not when I’ve finished writing it but when reader’s heart responds to what I’ve written.


What do you think is the most common misconception about publishing?

One common misconception is that the first draft is the final draft and ready for publication. The first draft is only the beginning. Most manuscripts go through several revisions before they’re ready to be sent to an agent or editor, or to be self-published. Recently I read something like this about revision: a book is never finished; you just have to know when to stop revising it.


If you could tell your younger writer self something, what would it be?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. But when I was younger, I didn’t always honor that call. I spent a lot of time not writing, worrying about not writing, thinking about writing, and procrastinating instead of writing. Much of my not-writing was caused by fear (see above!). I would now tell my younger self to have faith in what my heart tells me, have the courage to try—even if it means failing—have the fortitude to persist, have confidence in my ability, and have the humility to learn from those who can teach me. And, finally, something that Mimi’s science teacher tells Mimi in Full Cicada Moon:

“Our dreams are a serious matter.
When you take them seriously,
everyone else does too.”


Society of Young Inklings News

  • The Inklings Book Contest is here! Submit your work by March 15. We can’t wait to read it!
  • Confused, lost, frustrated, miserable … these are not productive ways to feel! Still, stuck happens, no matter how creative you are. That’s why we invented the Idea Storm. This online masterclass will help lead you to “Eureka!” moments.
  • Are you in the Bay Area? If so, we hope you’ll join us for our Launch Your Novel Workshop. Click the link to learn more.
  • Join our society! We’ll send you a FREE Inklings Starter Kit with tips and tricks personalized to your creativity style.



A special thanks to Marilyn Hilton!


Marilyn Hilton is the author of two novels and two nonfiction books. She has also published numerous articles, devotions, short stories, and poems in literary and consumer magazines, and has contributed to various compilations. Her work has won awards including the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, a Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Honor Book Award, the Sue Alexander Award, and the Associated Writing Programs Intro Journals Award. She holds a MA in English/Creative Writing and has worked for several years in the computer software industry as a technical writer and editor.

Visit her website here and grab your copy of Full Cicada Moon here.

Publishing Checklist

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about ways parents can support their young writers with play, games and evocative questions. In this week’s Facebook Live session, we’re talking revision. This session will be super practical, outlining ways to help your young writer revise their story or poem for publishing. This is perfect for getting ready for the Inklings Book Contest or for anytime they’re ready to clean up their work.

Download your checklist and get revising! Enter your email below to grab a copy.


Top Five Questions Parents Ask About Supporting Their Young Writer

For the past couple weeks, we’ve been talking about ways parents can support their young writers with play, games and evocative questions. In this week’s Facebook Live session, we’re going to tackle the top five questions parents ask me about their young writers. You’re not the only one wondering what your child might do for a living if he or she decides to be an an author, or how to best nudge your child to go for it when he or she stalls out. This week, we’re discussing it all.

If you missed the last two weeks, we’ve got a download here to catch you up. Enter your email below to snag a copy of our best tips and tricks for family storytelling. These activities will help you spur on your young writer, even if you’re not a writer yourself. 

Make the Most of Family Storytelling

Last week on our Facebook Live session, we explored six simple storytelling games for families to play in the car. If you missed that session or download, check them out here. This week, we’ll build on the conversation and explore questions and concepts to help you discuss storytelling and deepen the effectiveness of each game you play, all while keeping the play session lively and fun.

Download our Make the Most of Family Storytelling cheat sheet by entering your email below.