Love-Lists for Your Writing

anna ... coverA few years ago, I came across this post—Happy Writers’ Society: Love Lists by Stephanie Perkins—on author Natalie Whipple’s blog. Anna and the French Kiss is one of my all-time favorites, so I’m a big fan of Stephanie Perkins, and I also fell in love with her idea of creating “love-lists.”

“Whenever I begin a new project,” Stephanie tells us in the blog-post, “I also begin a list called ‘What I Love About This Story.’” She further explains, “I use this love-list as a touchstone to remind myself during the hard times why my story is worthwhile.”

As writers, we all know how easy it can be to lose sight of why we’re writing and what we’re writing as we slog through a first draft or endless rounds of revision. Creating a love-list can revive your sense of purpose and your love for your WIP, refocusing you on what’s at the heart of your writing.

Below are love-lists for my current projects. I’d love to see your love-lists, too, so please share in the comments below or provide a link to your love-list!

❤  Love-List for my YA contemporary-with-a-twist – How to Make a Heartbeat:

  • A brilliant, awkward boy
  • A girl who hums random oldies
  • A dog like a little skeleton covered in fur
  • A brutal accident
  • The stunning, but harsh, Arizona desert landscape
  • Love that defies death
  • The whisper of a heartbeat

❤  Love-List for my new YA WIP – Just B (Working Title):

  • A girl under pressure
  • An elite boarding school
  • A quirky Arizona ghost-town with a Roswell-esque history
  • A desperate act
  • An unfathomable creature with long, thin rabbit-ears (or are they antennae?)
  • An odd, reclusive boy
  • Falling stars
  • Unlikely friends

*Be sure to check out this post for more of Stephanie Perkins’ thoughts on love-lists!*

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Writing is Magic!

Clipart-harry-potter-vector-magz-free-download-vector-graphicsWriting fiction really is a kind of magic. You’re creating another reality out of words. By weaving words together, you can make readers care about people and things and happenings that don’t exist in the “real” world. And if you’re doing that with any success at all, you’re creating magic; it’s something special and you should be proud. How many people can do that?

Harry-potter-clip-art-2It’s hard to make magic, though, and sometimes a few tiny flaws ruin the whole spell. There are so many ways to get it wrong. That’s why it’s important to keep studying the craft (as if you’re a student at Hogwarts!) and to keep working hard. And get help. Someone else’s suggestions or edits can make the web of magic stronger so that it works on more people in a more powerful way. But there’s no one right way to do it. Sometimes you’ll get helpful advice that doesn’t work at all, and there’s really no way to know except to keep trying. You will probably fail miserably. Many times. Did you think making magic would be easy?

It can be infuriating and painful and humiliating, but it’s worth it. Because when your hours and hours of hard work pay off, and you enthrall readers with your magic, it’s … well … magical!

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Why I write

Each day after lunch, I rushed back to my fourth grade classroom, where our teachers where-the-red-fern-4would gather all four classes together and read aloud. I cherished this time, adored Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

But Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, captured my heart forever. This middle grade novel tells the heartbreaking story of a determined boy and the bond of love he builds with his hunting dogs, Big Dan and Little Ann.

Why did I fall in love with Where the Red Fern Grows, why does it still hold a special place in my heart, and what does it have to do with my writing? The obvious answer is that I loved dogs as a child (and still do!) and so of course a story about a boy’s love for his devoted pair of dogs appealed to me. But when I think of that book, through the years, a particular image fills my mind: a red fern growing between two graves. Although I couldn’t have articulated it at the time (or before today, actually) that red fern told me that love lives on, the spirit lives on, that even when life is tragic, it has meaning.

I’ve heard some people don’t like Where the Red Fern Grows or think it’s appropriate for children, because it’s “too sad.” Yes, it’s sad, heartbreaking, but I would argue that there is nothing more hopeful and uplifting than that red fern growing between the graves.

The meaning of the red fern resonates for me just as strongly today as it did back in fourth grade, and I’ve been reflecting on this recently. I’ve realized that many (possibly all) of my writing ideas and works-in-progress are concerned with the boundaries between life and death, and glimpses of an afterlife.

Why?

Because I believe in the power of the spirit, the power of love. I believe that we are more than just physical bodies with physical needs and desires (and this includes all living creatures—Big Dan and Little Ann—not just humans). I believe that two dogs could love a boy enough to sacrifice their lives for him and for each other, and that their love is powerful enough to transcend death and make a red fern spring up on their grave.

I write because of that belief in love and the spirit and hope. Life has meaning. And I have the audacity to hope that I can capture and express a little of that in a story that will maybe mean something to someone else. (And I hope my stories will also be exciting, fun, captivating, entertaining, and maybe a little scary and heartbreaking, just like Where the Red Fern Grows.)

I hope that one day, maybe I can plant the seed of a red fern in someone else’s heart.