probably heard that the secret to completing a manuscript is as easy as
BIC—Butt in Chair. But with such busy lives, it can be hard to find the time
and, more importantly, the motivation to stick to the writing goals we set for
ourselves. How can we make writing a top priority day after day, week after
week, month after month—until our manuscript is finally done?
some tips and tools to stay motivated as you pursue a writing life.
think about achieving success or being successful. Don’t compare yourself to
others who you think are more successful. That kind of thinking is toxic. No
one ever thinks they are successful.
It’s better to focus
on motivation. Because:
1. We can control it.
2. It helps us
remember that we’re on a journey.
3. It lets us know
when something is wrong.
Why: If you aren’t clear on why you’re doing something, it’s easy to give up.
Take the time to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing and how it
benefits you, your family, and your community.
Motivation has three
1. Focusing on your
2. Setting goals.
3. Staying positive.
Here's each step in greater detail:
1. What is your BIG
dream is? Write it down. Create a vision of what you want your life to be. A vision board
can help. Lots of people swear by them.
I use an idea board
instead of a vision board. It works better for me. It’s a place to store and
keep track of ideas for future books and marketing plans. Looking at what’s up
there helps me set priorities quickly.
Want to know more
about my idea board? Watch this
video of my nieces giving a tour of my office.
Be sure to rehearse
your BIG dream. Daydream as you drift off to sleep, while in the shower, while
walking the dog, etc.
4-5 goals per year. They should be specific, achievable, and measurable. Write
them down in the following format: By ____ (date), I will ______.
only have one or two goals, it may help to break them into smaller steps.
have so many goals that you feel paralyzed, you have created a to-do list, not
goals. Think bigger picture and try again.
addressing writer’s block is one of your goals, try switching to a different
writing project when you feel stuck. Getting stuck is a natural part of the
process, but you can stay productive if you devote your time and energy to a
you’re wondering how to prioritize your goals, listen to your heart. Which goal
are you most passionate about?
I post my goals in
the upper right-hand corner of my idea board and look at them every day. You
can see my goals in the photo above. I usually write them on the back of a
receipt. No reason to waste paper.
Think of your goals as an action plan. Once you
have a plan, stay the course. Every time someone asks you to do something or
you have an opportunity, ask yourself: Does this serve one of my goals? Does
this serve my BIG dream?
Find a friend to help
you stay accountable. A buddy can:
—Help you set
—Act as a sounding
—Highlight your blind
—Be a cheerleader
(big and small)
3. To stay positive:
with upbeat, constructive people.
The line between fiction and nonfiction is blurrier
than ever before. With terms like "informational book,"
"creative nonfiction," and "informational fiction," how are
writers supposed to know what works and what doesn't when presenting true or
mostly true information to children? This practical presentation explains the
terminology and discusses how children's book creators are playing with format,
point of view, voice, structure, and other elements to present information in
exciting new ways.
These posts explain
the origin and meaning of the terms we use to describe and discuss nonfiction books
as well as books that contain a blend of fiction and nonfiction:
Thanks to rock star educator JoEllen McCarthy (@JoEllenMcCarthy), I had an opportunity to chat about nonfiction writing with uber-talented authors Sarah Albee and Loree Griffin Burns last Saturday as part of the Educator Collaborative's Spring Gathering (#TheEdCollabGathering).
If you didn't get a chance to catch our program live, I have great news. It was archived here, so you can watch it at your convenience. We discuss choosing a topic, research, experiential learning, text structure, the revision process, pairing fiction and nonfiction, voice in nonfiction writing, nonfiction genres, crafting language, and why find joy in our work every day. Enjoy!
I’m so excited that a new, updated edition of A Place for Bats became available on
April 1. As with the original version, there are all kinds of ways you can use
it in the classroom. Forstarters, there’s a Teacher’s
that makes connections to a wide variety of Next Generation Science Standards
and Common Core standards as well as additional activities.
can also share one or two spreads of A
Place for Bats to support NGSS PE K-ESS3-3 for K students or read the whole
book as part of a lesson that addresses NGSS PE 5-ESS3-1 for grade 5 students.
A Place for Bats is
chockfull of text features. These
resources can help you use the book to
create lessons that focus on nonfiction text features.
main text of A Place for Bats has
both a cause & effect text structure and a problem-solution text structure,
while many of the sidebars compare past human activities that hurt bats to
current more bat-friendly activities. That makes it a great mentor text for
students learning about nonfiction text structures. These
resources can help you use the book to build lessons that
look at nonfiction text structures.
I've discussed voice in finely-crafted nonfiction mentor texts many times before on this blog. But today I'm suggesting an activity to give your students experience
experimenting with voice in their own nonfiction writing.
To get started, find an interesting or
surprising photograph of an insect and project it on your classroom interactive
whiteboard. Here are a few possibilities from my personal
photo archives. Feel free to use them:
Invite your student to do the following:
sentence about the insect.
sentence as a boring teacher would say it.
Re-write it as a
cartoon character would say it.
Re-write it with
alliteration (repetition of first consonant) or assonance (repetition of
Re-write it as a
bus driver would say it.
Re-write it as
Re-write it with
onomatopoeia (a sound effect).
favorite sentence and revise it.
volunteers to share their writing. Then repeat the activity with a different
CCSS.ELA—Literacy.CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text,
including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and
analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Today SarahAlbee and I are leading a 90-minute session at the Massachusetts Reading
Association conference. We will begin by asking the classroom teachers,
librarians, reading specialists, and literacy coaches in the audience to share
the most common nonfiction writing challenges their students face, and then we
will suggest solutions. We will also invite audience members to share their own
creative ideas with one another.
Based on our experience offering a similar session at
nErDcamp Long Island last fall, the links below address some of the topics
we expect to discuss:
Kids Copy their Research Sources, and How to Break the Habit
This is the fourth
book I’ve revised and updated in the A Place for series. The original edition
of A Place for Bats was published in
2012, and it’s hard to believe how much has changed for these furry fliers
As I plunged into the
research last winter, I realized that both the text and the artwork would need
One bat had a brand new
name—the tricolored bat. Two of the bats had overcome the challenges discussed
in the first edition, but were now facing new dangers. The new edition also
includes the latest information about what causes white nose syndrome and
describes the benefits of installing bat escape ramps in livestock watering
In the end, much of the
book’s text was rewritten and illustrator Higgins Bond painted three new
With so much work to do, we
all worried that the book wouldn’t make it to the printer in time for Spring
2017 publication. But thanks to a whole lot of hard work, late hours, and
teamwork, we did make our deadline, which means the new edition of A Place for Bats went on sale on April 1.
How can you use this book in
the classroom? Find out next week.
Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 150 nonfiction books for children. Her lifelong fascination with the natural world led her to earn a B.S.
in biology and M.A. in science journalism. When Melissa isn’t writing or speaking to children or educators, she’s usually exploring natural places near her home or around the world.
• AAAS/Subaru Prizes for Excellence in Science Books • ALA Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award • CRA Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award • Cook Prize for STEM Picture Book • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List • Cybils Nonfiction Awards • NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People • NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children • NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfictionfor Young Adults