Tips for an 8-year-old writer

translated by: Eric Barenboim
(any improvement or advice on the translation will be appreciated)

versión en español, click acá

Lucero is eight years old and she has written over 41 books (two on imaginary animals), I promised her:

– When you turn 10 I’ll teach you all my writing secrets, so you become a better writer than me.

Then I added:

– And I’m gonna do it for free…

Lucero laughed, and her mom did too.
That same night I stayed up late thinking not of imagination-releasing excercises (there already are wonderful books, such as The Grammar of Fantasy, or El Escriturón I & II), but of those secrets of the craft, the slightly more intangible ones, those I learnt after much of experience and only after gaining much confidence.

Not wasting time I wrote down for her a messy list. For her, but hoping she would read it with her parents.

You’ll notice that many items advise the opposite one another, it’s not a mistake: one can goof around exaggeratedly one way or another – but the writing I admire the most is the one which finds the in-between, the balance.


1) Write like nobody believed you.

2) Do it as if everybody believed every line.

3) Write as if in every detail rested your whole life.

4) Do it like you don’t care much, just to say something, anything.

5) Write like you knew every detail in the story.

6) Do it as if you knew only the tip of the iceberg, but not the whole thing (and you’re not sure that what you know is the most important part).

7) Write as if every fact on your story was just a matter of your own will (everything is at your command).

8) Do it as if the characters and facts rebelled against your will or were out of your reach. Characters are disregarding your mandate! How disobedient they are!

9) Write like being plain you, with a journal really tight to your life.

10) Do it as if you were someone else, and someone else, and come up with many masks, characters who are the ones who write or live those adventures.

11) Always trust in the reader: not so much to let yourself be unclear, but enough not to being obvious or “pedagogical” (that’s when we feel someone starts “teaching a class”).

12) Don’t write to dazzle others who write or some “who knows who’s club”, as if making an impression to them would grant you entrance to their exclusive club.
When we aim to awe some authority we write less, or worse, or not with the best part of oneself.
In other words: we write better when we imagine being read by someone we appreciate or who appreciates us.

12) No escribas para deslumbrar a otros que escriben o a un “club de quién sabe quiénes”, como si escribir deslumbrándolos te fuera a conseguir una entrada ese club exclusivo.
Cuando pretendemos deslumbrar a una autoridad escribimos menos, o peor, o no con la mejor parte de uno.
Dicho de otra manera: escribimos mejor cuando imaginamos que nos leerá alguien que apreciamos o nos aprecia.

13)You can do it with a timeline going forward progressively: by the minutes, hours, days, or weeks. Or you can write with huge time jumps.

Progressively or with big jumps produce three effects:
* you make the reader laugh or surprise.
* make him feel the same as your character, living in the moment.
* that your story goes forward and grows in intrigues.

14) How to develop the story?

Development is like zooming in, depending on how close to the action we see, how many actions we stick in between.
Imagine that you wanted to make friends with someone, and you thought of writing her a pretty letter, with drawings, but the colours were dumped by your little brother under a couch, and the couch is so heavy, so how can you move it? See? You started wanting to make friends and got to trying to move a couch…

This is because every goal has its means to be achieved, but if there are no means… oh, no! To find the means is the new goal!

Another example: I want to go to India, the mean is flying on a plane…
… but now I have to get a ticket (the new mean) to fly by plane (the new goal)
… but now I have to get money (the new mean) to get the ticket (the new goal)
… pero tengo que tener dinero (el nuevo medio) para conseguir el pasaje (que ahora es meta).
etc. etc.

You’ll likely find your own tricks and secrets, and when you do please tell me about them.

With affection

Luis Pescetti

P.S.: To see the image in its original size, and to get to know the project started by Ivanke, an Argentinean illustrator, whom we strongly recommend you to check out: Pequeños Grandes Mundos (Small Big Worlds), click here

© Luis Pescetti

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