As a writer I am constantly overwhelmed by the amount of advice out there for budding authors. Blogs, podcasts, books, individual tweets, facebook groups. The advice goes on and on. In the end, I always feel if you want to write, sit down and WRITE. However, for the youngest among us a blank piece of paper can be quite frightening and a little guidance can help. Christopher Edge, author of fiction such as the Penelope Tredwell series, has written a sensational learning accompaniment to creative writing. In fact, it made me revisit some of my own writing and proved an invaluable resource for my daughter, who is fast rivalling me for story-telling prowess.
Firstly, thanks to imaginative and colourful illustrations, it doesn’t look like a learning resource at all. It comes across as a fun, informative and creative non-fiction children’s title. The first half covers a range of different ideas and definitions and starts with how to get inspired. It draws on the very powerful question ‘what if?’, as a start to using imagination, and also explains that the simplest newspaper headlines can inspire a novel. It highlights making notes, using dreams and just having a go, even if you don’t know where the story will end up. In between the hints and inspiration are informative notes about grammar and vocabulary. Christopher Edge outlines setting a scene, delineating a character, and how to incorporate setting and character into the action. He explains tenses and why not to mix them up, how to open a story, incorporate dialogue, introduce red herrings, how to end – and then how to edit. This is a really important skill, and something that’s easily forgotten in the rush of excitement brought by finishing a story. Re-examining your own text though can be crucial to making improvements and Christopher handles it well with a web of questions to help edit.
There is a huge amount of detail and interesting pieces set out in fun ‘inspiration stations’, such as fabulous titles, quotes illuminating how a character is portrayed in dialogue, as well as little circular bubbles with hints “If you can’t tell which character is speaking you might need to change the dialogue”, and ‘red alerts’ to explain difficult grammatical constructs.
The second half trots through the different genres, from adventure through crime, horror, mystery, comedy to writing about love, history, sports and so on. It is certainly comprehensive. And for the last spread alone, it inspired me to make it book of the week – the last page gently explains that writers can find their inspiration from other writers. Reading is the key. It highlights some great opening lines from children’s fiction – including two of my personal favourites – “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news” Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz, and “There is no lake at Green Camp Lake.” Holes, Louis Sachar. If it inspires the next Horowitz or Sachar, Christopher Edge has done a really great job. You can purchase it from Amazon on the sidebar, or from Waterstones here
With thanks to OUP for my review copy.