I believe stories have the power to transform lives. Like me, I believe you can do this. You can write it all. According to my mom, “an open mindset mixed with determination and a positive attitude,” will help get you to wherever you want to go.
When I reflect on my school days as a child, some of the stories I read were entertaining. Usually, they were the fiction ones, but the nonfiction ones were heavily focused on facts, figures, events, and dates. Although those things are important, I couldn’t recall a single nonfiction story that took me on a journey and captured my imagination.
A lot has changed from the days of cramming facts and figures. In the years that have followed, I have learned quite a bit as a writer. Some of the best works I’ve read are nonfiction pieces. Now, as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I’ll take you through the process I use to keep my stories engaging.
most authors, I start off by brainstorming. I’ll spend hours jotting down words and phrases that relates to
the vague idea for the story I’m working on. At this point, nothing is
concrete. I don’t know all the fine-tuned details of what I want to say yet,
but once I’ve settled on an idea it’s lot easier to do so. I’d recommend not
stressing about the details so early on during the writing process. I usually
This is where I allow myself to write the first thing that comes to mind. The process is the same for fiction and nonfiction.
After the brainstorming process, I start laying out the groundwork. I make a list of people I need to contact and books I need to read that pertains to my story idea. Sometimes my planning involves traveling within the country and outside as well.
During this process I’m constantly thinking about my character(s) and the story I want to tell.
Like most writers, I make a draft. The first one is always crappy. I start filling in the voids if I have the answers. If not, I reach out to my sources. Throughout the entire process I frequently ask questions about my own story. I want to know more, so I ask questions, those being; who, what, why, when, where, and how.
way you decide to document those answers is all up to you and your own personal
writing style. Personally, the hardest part is when I’m writing about my
culture. I Just want to make sure that every detail is spot on. I often clarify
my facts by finding multiple sources that provide me accurate information.
Sometimes mining my own memory is a good place to start but I always supplement
it with information from family, friends, and experts from within my culture.
fiction books, The Field and To Carnival, are written about my
culture, but it took more than four years and many trips to St. Lucia to get it
is where the magic of wordplay and word choice comes into focus. At this point,
I’m thinking about imagination, education and taking my readers on a journey.
The goal at this stage is to focus on the child and capture their attention.
always thinking about relatable themes that are universal to children
My first paragraph is written with the goal of capturing the reader’s attention. Here are some examples:
(From The Field)
The Field calls.
To Carnival: A Celebration in St. Lucia)
“Manjé! Eat, Melba!” Calls Manman Lucy. “Tomorrow’s a big day!”
The grown-ups make plans for morning. Carnival!
Melba tries to listen, but her mind wonders …
(From I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon)
This is Northwestern Cameroon
The rainy season has begun.
This is where you set the stage and let your voice shine. Each story has its own voice. Your job is to capture that child’s attention and keep it throughout the entire story.
Thinking Beyond the Book.
my story inspire children for generations to come? I hope so, but no one really
knows that answer. However, there is a good chance that if your story is
authentic and represents people correctly then your story might survive the
test of time.
In the end, it’s about crafting an inspiring story — one that educates and captivates readers. My process may be different than yours, but I challenge you to try mine out and see if it works for you.
Mining Memory as a Writing Tool
1. If possible visit the place or the person you are writing about. If not go to a quiet room.
2. Close your eyes and try to visualize the place/experience or person you are writing about.
3. With your eyes shut, put your five senses to work.
4. Start thinking about, the sights, the smells, the feel, the taste, and the sounds that made the place/person/experience interesting.
5. Open your eyes and start documenting what you remember in detail.
6. If possible, start asking yourself questions that begin with who, what, why, where, when and how.
7. Visit the place again. This time focus on only one of the senses each time.
8. Start including those details into your story. Remember, show not tell.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Baptiste Paul grew up in St. Lucia, where at age seven he propagated a root cutting that still produces breadfruit for his community. He holds an Environmental Science degree and is the author of The Field, which received multiple starred reviews. He is also the co-author of I Am Farmer, Adventures to School, and Peace, with Miranda Paul. His forthcoming book, To Carnival! A Celebration of St. Lucia will give readers a small taste of his homeland. Learn more at baptistepaul.net.
ABOUT THE PRIZE
Baptiste is giving a signed copy of Peace.
“an open mindset mixed with determination and a positive attitude” this is going on my desk ! thank you for the inspiration and the practicing activityReplyDelete
Everything you said in your post, Baptiste, can be applied to both NF & F writers. As a current reluctant non-fiction writer, I appreciate that what I'm doing for fiction can apply over in NF land. Even the travel, LOL! (Although right now, that's mainly via books & Amazon e-excursions!) Thank you!ReplyDelete
Thanks for telling us your process. It's a good reminder to me not to try and jump from Brainstorming to Kid Appeal in one go!ReplyDelete
Terrific post for nonfiction and fiction writers. I love your brainstorming advice. I am guilty of getting bogged down in details way to early which causes me frustration. Kid appeal is also such a good point to make. Kids know what they like and will read some books over and over again because of how it makes them feel. Capturing the readers attention in the first line or paragraph is key. Using the 7 steps you listed above will help me stay on track. Thank you!ReplyDelete
In the midst of my struggles with a first paragraph, I really appreciated these examples. Thanks for a great post!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your insight. I’m new to writing nonfiction and I’m anxious to make my piece shine. I like your process. Open mindset, determination, positive attitude! Your mom was a wise woman!ReplyDelete
What a wonderful piece, thank you for sharing!ReplyDelete
I got I AM FARMER from the library this week and loved loved loved your beginning. In fact, it inspired a NF I am working on that mirrors my journey from Africa to America.
This is a very good exercise in adding the sensory experience to my manuscripts. Thank you!ReplyDelete
This was great! Thank you! It gave me a lot to think about.ReplyDelete
What your post reminds me is that writing takes time. Patience, perseverance and persistence are all required. I will try your mining activity. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your writing process! I enjoyed it, and also I love the activity you’ve presented. I plan to try it today!ReplyDelete
Thank you for this inspiring post, Baptiste. I love hearing the stories behind stories. And because of your examples, I just revised an opening to a new story I'm working on.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed learning about your process, Baptiste. I look forward to mining memory as a writing tool and connecting more fully with an idea or subject. I love your suggestion about not worrying so much about the details at the beginning. I tend to over think the details.ReplyDelete
This is just perfect in my mind. I hope you teach a writing class. I'm all in.ReplyDelete
It's so easy to forget about incorporating the senses into writing, but these are what makes the story come alive in fiction and nonfiction. Great activity!ReplyDelete
Your exercised is just what I needed for a sticky part of my story this morning. Best wishes for continued success!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm looking forward to using the exercises!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your writing process. Your ‘mining’ method will be very useful to expand on those brainstorming tidbits. I will give your process a try!ReplyDelete
“an open mindset mixed with determination and a positive attitude”--> Love this!ReplyDelete
I appreciate your sharing of your process with us, as well as the examples of your beginnings. They are beautiful and lyrical. The emphasis on experiencing a place with all senses is powerful! Thanks!
Thank you Baptiste for sharing your insights! As I write MG biographies, I feel the same dedication to getting the details of the story "just right!" And, I think it is great that you shared the amount of time dedicated to researching and writing your story, leading to publication years later. It is an industry that requires patience!ReplyDelete
Thanks Baptiste for the look into your process.ReplyDelete
I love your tips for "Mining Memory as a Writing Tool!" Engaging our five senses to truly see, feel, and hear places we write about will enhance our writing and make it more appealing to readers. Great advice and reminders to slow down to thoroughly experience the world we are writing about! Thank you.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this! So many practical ideas that can immediately be put into use!ReplyDelete
What a neat exercise! When I get caught up in research, I often forget that I can use my own sensory experiences to inform my writing. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I like your suggested steps and your books are engaging. Thanks for sharing your process. Weaving the senses in is always a struggle for me.ReplyDelete
Baptiste, Thank you for the tips on writing a non-fiction book (or fiction). I will try to incorporate these tips into the book I am currently researching. I look forward to reading your books.ReplyDelete
Baptiste, thank you for your confidence-inspiring message and description of your process and well as for the helpful activity. You may have helped me coax a handed-down memory into a story!ReplyDelete
Hi Baptiste, Thank you for sharing your process. I miss taking the many trips to X location to get my story right.ReplyDelete
I love how structured your process is. So many people dive right in without doing all the groundwork. This is great advice.ReplyDelete
It's so true that lots of research needs to be done whether one is writing fiction or nonfiction! I could see your attention to detail in your books.ReplyDelete
Most excellent & useful topic! My subject matter is all over the map. Thank you!ReplyDelete
The magic of wordplay. Thank you so much for this post and the offer to go mining. Everything is truly magical in this post.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your process. Kid Appeal is something you do so well.ReplyDelete
What stood out for me in your very useful process of visiting and/or visualizing a places, is to revisit it AFTER writing down details about the five senses. What a marvelous way to improve a draft! Thanks so much.ReplyDelete
I love the brainstorming tips and wordplay. Thanks for sharing the process you use - I'm taping it to the wall above my desk.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Baptiste, for sharing your process to keep our stories engaging for young readers. I've got your activity in my notes. You've given me much to contemplate as I craft a story that will educate and captivate.ReplyDelete
This was truly a posting that drove me to researching on and working through the topic of the Activity: Mining Memory! I found a writing exercise online to help me understand Mining Memory and have been working on it for the past hour or so! It has caused me to do some heavy soul-searching, helping to provoke my memory while taking me to places I want to and need to revisit! I've got some good story material/memories! Thanks!ReplyDelete
So exciting! I can't wait to learn more about you and your work. thanksReplyDelete
I appreciate this exercise. I sometimes close my eyes and focus on my character before going to bed...trying to inhabit their world, their circumstances etc. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Fantastic post and great exercise. Thanks so much.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Baptiste. I love reading and listening to your stories and always learn so much from your advice.ReplyDelete
Thank you Baptiste. I'm so glad I read your post before sitting down to work this morning because of the exercise, and the your advice about thinking beyond the book!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your writing process and for the exercise, Baptiste! Great tips!ReplyDelete
Such wonderful tips for mining the memories in a kid-friendly way! Best of luck, and peace to you and Miranda!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the inspiring post, Baptiste! Looking forward to reading PEACE!!ReplyDelete
Sound advice, thanks.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Baptiste. I love the emphasis on voice, and I love the voice that shines through even your introductory paragraphs. I look forward to exploring your books!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Baptiste! I always benefit from hearing about others' process.ReplyDelete
Baptiste, thank you for this peak inside your writing process. I'm inspired to try your exercises and to mine my experiences for writing ideas.ReplyDelete
Thanks also for your advice on first paragraphs. The examples from your books grab the reader so beautifully!
I can't wait to read PEACE! I love your premise that peace and kindness are more than feelings. We must perform acts of kindness to make them more real!
Thank you, Baptiste! This is such meaningful information for me as both a fiction and non-fiction writer.ReplyDelete
I'm starting a new project and this will be very helpful to brainstorm sensual images and thoughts.I look forward to reading these new books.
Thanks for the mining ideas!ReplyDelete
"Each story has its own voice. Your job is to capture that child’s attention and keep it throughout the entire story." Your words here are perfect. I love the reminder to focus on the senses. Thank you for this! Perfect.ReplyDelete
Thank you Baptiste for such a great post. I like your word brainstorming and seeing the openings side-by-side really highlights your different voices in each book. I am looking forward to reading Carnival!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your process - I especially loved hearing about the planning stage. Looking forward to your upcoming books!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your process. I'm hoping something like your suggestions will work for me, too.ReplyDelete
Terrific post and description of your process! Thanks for sharing with us!ReplyDelete
Yes, our stories have the power to transform lives, something that keeps me going in this crazy profession. Maybe you should write a story based on pizza ovens and the sharing of food (in the form of fabulous pizzas) and how it brings a community together. What do you think?ReplyDelete
I totally saved your Mining Your Memories list. It's so easy to leave out the sensory details. Thanks for the tip!ReplyDelete
An open mind and a can do attitude go along way.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Baptise, for sharing your process and for writing books that kids love to read.
Thank you for the activity, Baptiste! You have offered a great tip for helping us really get into our stories by having us take a journey into all the senses surrounding it. I will definitely include this activity when writing future drafts!ReplyDelete
Wow, loved the insight into your creative process and the activity - such a great way to really immerse ourselves in our characters, the story, the time, the place, etc. and write from our senses. I love how your writing conveys so much, even with few words.ReplyDelete
Thanks Baptiste! Senses are so important. I am hoping to get to two locations this spring not only document but take it all in!ReplyDelete
Great exercise for accessing sensory details in our work. Thank you!ReplyDelete
I love the brainstorming, researching, and planning stages of writing. If done right, the actual writing almost falls into place!ReplyDelete
This was an incredibly useful post, Baptiste!ReplyDelete
Beautiful and useful post. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Thank you,Baptiste, for sharing your process in such a clear and inspiring way. I realize I don't have mine as clearly defined as you do and it could be good to think it through. Much success to you and Miranda.ReplyDelete
This is an excellent post and one I'm going to need to reread to get the most out of it. Thank you for the specific examples and inspiring suggestions, Baptiste!ReplyDelete
Having lived in several countries, I am always drawn to cultural books. Thanks for sharing your process on writing them.ReplyDelete
I've read The Field and Adventures to School but haven't read I am Farmer. But the opening pge you've shared has pulled me in. You have a knack for doing that. I'll need to find this book.
Congrats on Peace and your forthcoming book, To Carnival! A Celebration of St. Lucia. I look forward to them.
Your mining memories as writing tool activity is very useful. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Wonderful post! Thank you so much!ReplyDelete
'Your job is to capture that child's attnetion and keep it... and if your story is authentic and represents people correctly, then it might survive the test of time.' Thank you for sharing, Baptiste!ReplyDelete
I love your advice to not worry about form or genre at first... just get to the heart of the story, what it is you want to tell. Then make sense of it from there. Thank you!ReplyDelete
What a great post Baptist Paul! Your books are lovely and heart felt. Thank you for the terrific tips, "Mining Memory as a Writing Tool"!. I look forward to sharing these books with my grands!ReplyDelete
Baptiste, thank you for sharing your process. You have such a lovely way of capturing your readers’ interests!ReplyDelete