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Writing Tip: Karen Cushman

I’ve invit­ed a group of top-notch writ­ers to share their writ­ing tips with you this sum­mer. Look for a new bit of learned expe­ri­ence each Tuesday.

Karen Cush­man: Rules, rules, rules. Here’s my tip: make up your own rules, or bet­ter yet, have no rules. Court sur­prise, be open to the unex­pect­ed, lis­ten to inaudi­ble voic­es and see things unseen.

Stray from your out­line, toss the index cards in the air and arrange them in a new order, ask your­self ques­tions for which you don’t already know the answers: Why did I give this char­ac­ter red hair? How does she feel about this for­est? If he were to respond dif­fer­ent­ly, how would it change the sto­ry? If I made the hero a woman, what would that do to the plot?

Read and reread your drafts look­ing for sur­pris­es, the clues you’ve left your­self, look­ing for what the sto­ry is about, what you real­ly want to say. Be curi­ous, be aware, and be open. And let it flow.

Please vis­it Karen Cush­man’s web­site, where you can learn more about Karen’s most recent book, as well as her New­bery-hon­ored classics.

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