Improve Your Writing with Story Circles

by Margaret Welwood

They say—and I agree—that reading your story out loud helps you to detect awkward places. If you stumble, so will your reader.

But what of reading other authors’ stories out loud—stories that you and your (grand)children enjoy? I read at day cares, the museum, the library, and other venues, reasoning that as I note where the children light up and where they begin to fidget, my own writing will improve.

What a rich source of feedback! I not only observe light-up vs. fidget, I also find myself skipping entire sentences that don’t seem to move the story along. And this happens as I’m reading to an audience—that’s prime time for noticing rough spots in my own and others’ writing.

I also find stories that move flawlessly and utterly enthrall the children. Take Little Croc’s Purse, for example.

The children were captivated. Would Little Croc, in his determination to act with integrity, make it past mean Murdock? The cad wanted to steal the purse that Little Croc was turning in to the police station! And how about those lovely red boots–on special no less–and a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day? Surely he could borrow from the rightful owner…  or could he? Then there was the panhandler…

I loved reading this book to the children age five and up at an after school care. And perhaps they were as moved as I was near the end of the story when Little Croc gave Murdock his first present ever. This story lends itself to dramatic reading, and the illustrations are a wonder. With just a few strokes, Lizzie Finlay portrays curiosity, pleasure, menace, effort–and the joy of a well-made choice.

Whether I’m marveling at flawless flow or compensating for detours and bumps in the road, I find these story circles to be an incredible source of feedback. Coupled with a small but merciless army of beta readers, they provide me with a firm foundation for improving my writing and editing skills.

That’s all good. But about 20 seconds into volunteering, I realized another benefit–pure pleasure!

Author Bio
Margaret Welwood loved teaching English as a Second Language, writing magazine articles, and editing a business magazine and adult non-fiction books (one an Amazon #1 best seller, the other a Writer’s Digest award winner). However, with the arrival of grandchildren and their welcome request—“Grandma, can you tell me a story?”—she began writing and editing picture books for children. This is now her favorite genre.
Please visit Grandma’s Bookshelf to learn about Margaret’s picture books for children, and her vendor page for her editing services.

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