Sentence Soup

In talking to the young people about writing sentences that flow well together, I told them that writing a story was like making a good soup.

First I asked, what makes up a good soup?  I got all sorts of answers, from chicken, to veggies, to noodles and crackers.  So we decided that a good soup has a lot of good ingredients, but not too many of any one ingredient.

I then asked them if any of them like pepper on their soup.  Many hands went up.  Then, I asked, “But what if I came over and dumped the whole pepper shaker into your soup.  Would you like that?”  No one did.

So we agreed, that having too much of any one ingredient or spice can spoil the soup.  The same goes with writing. Here are the ingredients that I mentioned to them:

Sentence length: Mix up long and short sentences to make things more interesting.
Describing words: Add some adjectives and adverbs, but be careful not to add too many. (It’s like too much pepper)
Types of sentence beginnings: Sometimes leading with subject and verb, and other times leading with a clause.
Using strong, concrete verbs:  Think of different ways to say common words such as “walk” and “talk” to paint a more exact picture.
Have perfect punctuation: Use it when you need it, but don’t overdo it, such as using more than one “!”

I think the soup analogy really  helped the students grasp what I was saying, and I think it is a concept that any writer should think about.

Please join me next week for another installment, and on Thursday for a review of the first three books of the 13th Reality series by James Dashner.

Roy Elementary Author Visit

This week, I had one of the best experiences of my writing career.  I had privilege of visiting Roy Elementary in Roy, UT to get the students excited about writing.  They are putting on a “Young Authors Fair” later this school year, and my visit was to help them prepare for that.

I gave two different assemblies to the school to talk about how I became and author (and how they can too) and then I was off to the classrooms.  Over the course of two days, I visited 21 different classrooms, ranging from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade.  Each teacher had been stressing some part of writing in their classrooms and they had me give one of four presentations about an aspect of writing that they wanted their students to work on.  I was so impressed how well-behaved the students were and how many of them were excited about learning how to write and telling their own stories.

It was a bit of a challenge tailoring my presentations to match the needs and learning levels of such a wide variety of age groups (for example, in Kindergarten, we just talked about ways to use your imagination, while in sixth grade, I could hold a lengthy discussion about the elements of a story), but in the end, I feel that I got the hang of it.

From an author’s point of view, it was a very worthwhile exercise. The principal suggested that I have books on hand for the students to purchase, and through this, I sold 33 books, which is far greater than most events that I hold in bookstores.

As a teacher, the experience was incredibly satisfying, as I saw those young minds light up and ask very intelligent questions about writing and I could tell they were getting excited about it.

I want to make the presentations I used available for use by other writers and by other teachers.  There are four in all, including:

How to Organize Your Writing
Sentence Fluency
Hooking Your Reader

I am going to use this opportunity to explore each of these topics on my blog; once a week for four weeks.  I will prepare a post on this topic and then the PowerPoint presentation file available for free download.

I would love to hear about other opportunities to visit schools.  If you know of any such opportunities, please contact me at