As a mom of creative kids, I have often wanted to co-write stories with my kids. It’s fun, but sometimes the process can break down.
Good news! My friend Amie Borst just released her debut novel, CINDERSKELLA, which she co-authored with her daughter Bethanie. Together they developed this fun, spooky plot, and the end result was this book good enough to publish. I asked Amie to tell us what it was like to work together, and to give us moms some tips for how to successfully complete a great novel…together! Take it away, Amie.
Three Great Things About Team Writing With My Daughter
1) She has fantastic ideas. When she presents them to me I’m always resistant. My instinct is to play it safe, so I tell her that her ideas won’t work and why I feel that way. Later, as we write the story, I find she was right all along and I end up eating my words. Thankfully she’s pretty forgiving and I only hear, “Gee, if you’d just listened to me in the first place, we wouldn’t be going through this revision right now” a few times. A day. An hour.
2) Children are a lot less inhibited. They’re not afraid of their ideas. They’re willing to make mistakes. And they’re not as restricted by their self-esteem or discouraged by the criticism of others. “If people don’t like it, then that says a lot about them.”—That’s what she tells me when I worry about the merit of our story.
3) She just writes the story. I tend to edit as I go, which means I never really make a lot of progress. But she tells me, “Mom, you can’t fix it unless it’s written.” She’s right. If there aren’t words on the page then there’s nothing to edit. Even the worst parts of a story can be revised later.
4) She’s an example to me for all the above reasons. While I might think I’m an excellent teacher and she needs to follow my example, it’s really me who learns the most from her. “Raising parents is so hard.”—Yes, she has said that to me!
5) She can count better than me J
Tips for writing with children:
1) Create a tangible storyboard. We use poster board and color coded post it notes.
a)Write the book title across the top of the poster board
b)Draw an arch to represent a timeline.
c) Cut up post it notes and divide them into categories (plot, world building, characters, theme, etc)
d) Fill out the information for each of the categories, similar to an outline or plot graph. This is where I have learned to let go of my control and allow Bethanie to go wild with her ideas. In fact, she does most of the plotting now.
e) Place the notes along the timeline of the story.
f) This is an example of one of our story boards in the early stages. We later removed the notes, drew in our arch and replaced the notes.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I am a lame WordPress User and cannot get the image to copy onto this page. Lame-o moi. So sorry. Use your considerable imaginations here to picture a large piece of poster paper with different colored post-it notes on it, each color representing a different aspect of story: plot, character, etc.]
2) Have them work on a scene, writing it out. Typically, Bethanie will type up her scene on the family computer and email it to me. I copy and paste it into the manuscript and work on fleshing it out. She usually has 3-5 pages worth of words, which I bring up to 10 pages or so with imagery, adding to dialog or dialog tags and filling in any other gaps. Sometimes I see where there can be another story element added, so I’ll call her into my writing room and we’ll discuss it. If it works, we add it together, if not, we drop the idea and move on.
3) Let them write. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or grammar. Just encourage them to get the words on the page. When I receive Bethanie’s email I don’t ever point out her errors, I just correct them once I put them in the manuscript. When she sees the edited version, she learns from her mistakes then, without having it pointed out to her constantly.
4) Don’t shoot down their ideas. If, for some reason, an idea doesn’t end up working, find ways to keep portions of it or perhaps make alterations to that idea so it can fit the story.
5) When we receive notes from our editor, we discuss anything that impacts the plot or voice. I make the corrections, print it off and have her read it and check for errors.
6) Encourage them to keep trying, to keep writing and to never give up!
And now, I’m sure you’re dying to check out Cinderskella! It’s the book I’m reading right now, and I’m finding it a great story — one I’d actually get a kick out of reading with my own 11 year old daughter.
Cindy is just a normal eleven and three-quarter year-old. At least until she wakes up one night and finds out she’s dead. Well, she isn’t technically dead—she just doesn’t have any hair . . . or a nose . . . or skin. Yep—all bones, no body.
Human by day and skeleton by night, Cindy is definitely cursed. And because her mother recently died, Cindy has no one to turn to except a father who’s now scared of her and an evil stepmother who makes her do the housecleaning with a toothbrush. To make matters worse, the Spring Fling dance is approaching, and Ethan, the cutest boy in sixth grade, doesn’t seem to know Cindy exists. Of course, Cindy doesn’t think letting Ethan find out she’s part skeleton is the best way to introduce herself.
While facing such perils as pickled pig’s feet, a wacky fortune teller, and a few quick trips to the Underworld, Cindy’s determined to break the curse—even for a single night.
You can purchase Cinderskella at:
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cinderskella-amie-borst/1117023980?ean=9781939967251
Add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18311564-cinderskella
About Amie and Bethanie
Amie Borst is a PAL member of SCBWI. She still believes in unicorns, uses glitter whenever possible and accessorizes in pink. She enjoys eating chocolate while writing and keeps a well-stocked stash hidden away from her family. A native New Yorker she currently resides in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children and a cute dog named Lily. She wishes she had a hot-pink elevator with carnival lights to travel the world. But for now, her minivan will have to do.
Bethanie Borst is a spunky 13-year-old who is an avid archer with Olympic dreams, enjoys the outdoors, loves reading and is quick to make lasting friendships. When she is not writing, she swings on a star.
You can follow Amie and Bethanie on facebook at www.facebook.com/AmieAndBethanieBorst
You can find Amie at her blog www.amieborst.com, twitter, www.twitter.com/AmieBorst and pinterest www.pinterest.com/AmieBorst
She’s got a RAFFLECOPTER contest going on at her website, too, so bop on over and enter.
Thanks for hosting us, Jennifer! Hope my tips help other parent/child writing teams!