The Best Advice from Scott O’Dell

Summer break has set in, I’ve had a week to rest, and now it’s time for next school year’s preparations to begin! Instead of being a part-time sixth grade teacher, I’m moving up to seventh and eighth grade writing and literature. I’m ecstatic! Writing was the best part of teaching sixth grade (second only to the relationships with my students), and now it is my sole focus.

In choosing books, I immediately suggested Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. It has always had a special place in my heart, partly because I enjoyed it and partly because it was one of my mom’s favorites as a kid. The director found more books by O’Dell and began researching him, and in the past week, we have both become thoroughly enamoured.

As a writer, though, I learned something invaluable from him that I have to share. He advised that, when you’re writing, end your stint before you run out of ideas. If you already know what will happen next before you leave the computer/paper/journal/napkin, you will have somewhere to begin next time you write.

Of course it sounds obvious now, but I had never thought of it. I’m a binge writer. When I’m on a good streak, I tend to write until the ideas stop flowing or I’m pried away from the keyboard–whichever comes first. Depending on the situation, though, it sometimes leaves me with nowhere to begin when I return. I waste twenty minutes, somtimes an hour, rereading and pondering before words begin flowing again.

Do I have the self-control to stop myself before I run dry? I’ll muster some long enough to find out. After all, it’s worth a shot.

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8 responses to “The Best Advice from Scott O’Dell

  • C.B. Wentworth

    O’Dell’s advice is spot on! I’ve been in that place where one day I’ll write like a maniac and the next . . . nothing. It’s so hard to stop when you’re on a roll, but I’ve learned its better to space out that roll. Although, I’m still so guilty of plowing through. ;-)

    There’s a week left of school . . . I’m so excited for summer. I love teaching, but boy do I need a break. :-)

  • Emerald Barnes

    That is good advice! I have the tendency to just keep rolling with the ideas too, but I have noticed the truth in this statement before. :)

    Island of the Blue Dolphins was my mom’s favorite book when she was a teenager as well, and she told me to read it. I’ve loved it ever since.

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    It varies with me. Sometimes I write from scene to scene with no idea where I’m going. More recently, writing stories, I tend to fill in scenes ahead of where I am as I thnk of them. I’m about halfway through the story I’m writing now (maybe less), but I’ve already got most of the ending written. So, I usually know where the next scene is going.

    But I’m not really a binge writer either way. I don’t usually have big enough chunks of time, for one thing. :-)

  • Another Mission: Complete « The Everyday Epic

    […] my own advice that I learned from Scott O’dell, and stop writing before I run out of ideas so I know what will happen […]

  • thirdplan8

    Did you get to pick out all of the books for your students to read or only some of them?

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