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Pep Talk from Lois Lowry

Hello, young writers!

It's daunting to sit down and begin a novel.

Daunting? Is that the right word? There might be better ones. Overwhelming? Terrifying?

No, I think daunting is good. I'll leave it.

I went through that small process to show you what I do during the writing of each and every paragraph of a novel. I question the words. Not the ands or the thens. But adjectives? I often question each one. And verbs! Verbs are the most... well, daunting.

(Question? Maybe it should be second-guess?)

It makes it pretty challenging (or exhausting, or time-consuming, or maybe just plain hard) to write a novel.

But fun, too. There is no better feeling than realizing you got the words just right.

I always begin with a character: a character to whom I introduce the reader, so that the reader will enter the novel feeling as if he or she already has a friend... or at least someone to care about.

But very quickly I let the reader know that they have to worry a bit about this new friend, because something is slightly [amiss? askew? out-of-whack?] and the book character is going to have to find a way to set things right.

That starts the plot going.

I'm not going to tell you how I write a plot because everyone does it differently, and your own way is best for you.

But I will say something about the ending of a novel. First, your main character will still be there at the ending. He (or she) will have changed, though. (In some extraordinary cases, the protagonist will be, um, sorry: dead. I've done that now and then in a novel—my book Messenger, for one.)

But most often the protagonist will be alive, and—this is important—will have matured in some way. Grown wiser. Braver. Stronger. Kinder. That is because throughout the plot, the protagonist has made choices (sometimes very hard ones) and he or she has learned and grown from each choice.

(So has the writer, incidentally).

I find that very often, at the ending of a novel, the writer (me, or you) will use a verb like realized, or understood, or knew, or found. It's the job of the protagonist to accomplish all of those things.

And it's the job of the writer to show the reader how it happened, by choosing just the right words.

Have fun,

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is the author of Number the Stars and The Giver (both Newbery Medal winners), among 30 other books for children and young adults. She lives in Cambridge, MA in a house dominated by a very shaggy Tibetan Terrier named Alfie and a funny little cat named Lulu.

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