- How to Build a Story … or, the Big What If by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Dowell, Frances O'Roark How to Build a Story … or, the Big What If; illus. by Stacy Ebert. Dlouhy/Atheneum, 2020 [128p] Trade ed. ISBN 9781534438422 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9781534438446 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-6
Multitalented author Dowell (of the Sam the Man early reader series and subtle, insightful older fiction such as The Secret Language of Girls, BCCB 7/04) turns here to advice for young writers. After a quick introduction, the book offers compact chapters on starting your story, building your characters, working your way through the challenging middle section, and the importance of obstacles and adversity to storytelling. Dowell keeps her advice usefully technical and thus actionable, including examples of hypothetical possibilities as well as shoutouts to well-known novels, and wrapping up each chapter with quick go-to sections entitled "The Big Take-Home," "Writers, Start Your Engines!," and "Let's Write!" While some of the advice is of the tried-and-true variety that's in other writing guides, Dowell's focus on the challenges of each part of the book and wise advice are sure to help aspiring writers, and the format and friendly illustrations help make this accessible to younger audiences, especially those eager advanced readers keen to become writers. The advice about how to find a good "editor" (reader who will give feedback) and ways to share work outside of brick and mortar publishing are particularly novel, to pardon the pun. Hopeful young authors will find this a highly useful and confidence-building guide.