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Short Story Month: Eat your dessert first.

Author Sarah Aronson shares advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay in May. Learn more about how to write short stories with us this month!

Q: What is your one go-to piece of general advice for young writers?

A: PLAY. Don’t be afraid of failure. Instead, experiment. Try everything! Or as my first editor said, “Eat dessert first.”

When I started writing The Wish List series, I called it my “peach sorbet.” It was a sort of palate cleanser, after the “real” work was done. It was a project I wrote just for myself—no expectations.

It wasn't long before I realized that play, or writing without expectations, makes me a better writer. When I play, inspiration emerges. Intuition doesn't feel so impossible. I enjoy myself more!

When I challenged myself to banish my internal editor, I found that I could write all kinds of stories—and that I enjoyed the process a lot more!

Q: How do I find interesting topics and stay true to myself?

A: I turn off my phone. I go for long walks. I listen to what is happening around me.

I wrote Beyond Lucky when my kids began playing soccer. I wrote Believe after reading about the women who was once known as Baby Jessica (a baby who fell in a well many years ago).

When I get inspired, I don't rush. First I journal—with a pencil. Sometimes I draw. Sometimes, when I don’t know how to process what I’m feeling, I draw squares! I think about the universal themes that are important to me. I mine my memories for emotions and details.

And every day, I keep writing.

Remember: at first, story can be elusive. In other words, my books require re-imagination!

Characters don’t usually emerge fully formed. For me, this early writing helps me figure out what my characters want—what makes them three dimensional and interesting—and what will generate tension and conflict. So I stay patient. I dig. I write poetry. I read poetry. I think what is important to me and what I want to say.

Before The Wish List was about fairy godmother training, it was about disgruntled princesses! Now I know I never find the story on the first try. So I don't push it. I don't expect it to be good. Or even right.

The truth is: I never save my early drafts. Instead, I write them to discover. To uncover. To figure out what I want to say in the story.

Q: Should I share my work? When, and with whom?

A: Sharing your work is an act of bravery. But it is essential. For a few reasons.

Constructive feedback helps you figure out what you are doing well.

It also helps you see where the reader is not that vested in your story.

Handing over your story to a trusted reader also gives you some distance from the story—so you can go back in fresh.

No one writes completely alone. When you have a strong, supportive writing community, you will feel braver. You will take more chances. You will have someone to talk about craft with. You will have someone to share this journey.

Writing Dare from Sarah Aronson

Write a scene that happens before the start of your story.

It can be the first thing your character (or you) remembers. It can be an event that changed the way your character sees the world. When your done, take a step back. What does this scene say about your character and what she wants? How does this story affect the way your character sees the world?

author photo

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Her most recent books are part of a new young MG series, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017–2018) as well as a forthcoming picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books).

When Sarah is not writing or reading (or cooking or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, social action, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at the amazing Highlights Foundation or Writers on the Net. She has served as an SCBWI mentor in both Illinois and Michigan. She loves sports. She overuses exclamation points. When she’s excited, she talks with her hands. Like tips? Look for #TipsOnTuesdays (on Twitter) or sign up for her weekly newsletter on her website

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