11 Year Old Writer Seeks Your Advice and a Critique

Today I am very pleased to have Rebecca Riter as my very special guest. 

Hi. My name is Rebecca Riter. I am 11 years old. My favorite color is green. I am a fifth grader whose hobbies are; gymnastics, writing, drawing, and baseball. I began my writing at the young age of five. I have saved almost all of my work; this has been difficult because our moves number more than the birthdays I’ve celebrated. 

I like to write short, strange, random stories. Some of my stories start as writing prompts, feelings I get, or a random inspiration. Journaling has helped me to get through both of my Dad’s yearlong deployments to Iraq.

Sometimes, I find it easier to write my thoughts down than to say them out loud. I find it challenging to work with a lot of noise, although I do most of my writing at school. Writing helps me to get away from life and express myself with a pencil. 

Rebecca has been working on a short story and has bravely agreed to share it with the readers of this blog.  She would like to know your thoughts on her story, so please share your constructive critique of this story in the comments section.  

Raspberries
     One bright, sunny day I was out picking mums. I had about a dozen when I saw a raspberry bush. I set my flowers on the ground and I walked over to the lonely bush. I picked off a raspberry, wiped it with my shirt, and put it in my mouth. It was delicious. I felt the bumps coursing down my throat and rubbing against my tongue. I began to crave more and more of them. So I ate every single raspberry on the bush… except for the very last one stuck in the thorny center. I reached my arm in and grabbed it. I stopped to pull the thorns out of my arm. I looked at the cuts on my arm for a second and thought, “Oh well” and stuffed the raspberry in my mouth without looking at it again… which was a huge mistake.

My freckles disappeared and turned into raspberry bumps. Then my craving grew even more intense. I started turning purple and pink. Uh oh! I soon realized that I was turning into a raspberry!  Then my nose disappeared. I thought, “Wait! I can go get help!” I started to run but my legs disappeared. My hair fell from my head and lay on the ground like a wig. I saw someone coming so I began to wave my arms around in the air. I saw their eyes lock with mine but just at that moment, my arms and eyes disappeared. They started running toward me in utter shock. The person came to find just a small raspberry on the ground. I had shrunk! They left and walked toward a large treehouse. Then without thinking… I ate myself.     

You may be wondering, “If she ate herself, then how did she write this story?” Well, the girl in this story is my great, great, great, grandmother. I found out about it because my great, great, great grandmother’s little sister was hiding behind the bush trying to steal her mums and the story was passed down from generation to generation. My mom told me.  Still confused? I wrote this story for my great, great, great grandmother.                                                           

The End                 

Now that you’ve been introduced to this extraordinary young lady, please share your constructive critique, your best piece of writing advice, your favorite writing resource, or your encouraging words in the comments section.

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37 thoughts on “11 Year Old Writer Seeks Your Advice and a Critique

  1. HI REBECCA!!! So very enthused to meet you! I’m squirming with excitement over your guest host post today 🙂

    Firstly, I’d like to say that at your age, I was in NO way able to construct and articulate a full story the way you have! Seriously, no way. Most of the story telling I did was oral, and made up on the spot. It lacked arch and was more about disturbing the listeners (yeah they were mostly ghost stories) than creating a cohesive story that had a beginning, middle and conclusion.

    Secondly, I love the story you’ve written here! Especially the part where the victim ate herself! That’s a great twist that steps outside the expected and yet isn’t so weird that it throws the flow.

    I think you have an amazing grasp of how to tell a story, how to engage readers and carry them with you. You also have a great vocabulary and sense of word usage! A VERY strong base as a writer.

    Other than simply continuing to write (I cannot emphasize this enough. Write whenever you can, anything you can. Even making lists of interesting sounding words can change you somehow for the better. Just write no matter what) the only thing I’d suggest is read the dictionary. No, seriously. It sounds stupid, but it’s a great thing to do. The online ones are actually easier than the hardcopy ones because you can use the thesaurus too. And trust me, the thesaurus is an epically awesome thing. EPICALLY. Want to find a word for sad? Look it up in the dictionary, then hit the thesaurus button. Voila! Instantly you get this list of words that all mean ‘sad’ but are different from the plain old word ‘sad’. I scoffed at thesauruses all through school. Biggest mistake ever. My language and writing have improved ten-fold since I began randomly trying to find out how many different ways there are to say something. You can make a story sound old, aristocratic, poor, futuristic fantastical, or anything in-between just by changing the way in which you say something.

    Try this exercise: Take a statement/description and write it out. Then see how many different ways you can convey the same thing.

    Ex: I missed him very much
    My heart was heavy with longing for his company
    The world was dimmer without his face to greet me each morning
    The sorrow of his absence was like a weighted chain binding my soul
    Life was empty without him

    It’s ridiculous how far you can go with it! Also, play the game balderdash or some variation of it. It’s great fun and you learn so much while you’re at it, between learning the actual definitions of words and then making up your own definitions.

    • Thank you so much for your enthusiasm over her appearance here today and for taking the time to comment on her work. She will be a busy young lady when she gets home from school today, thank goodness it is early-out day!!!

    • Thank you for all the great advice about the dictionary and balderdash. I must get that game now. Thanks for stopping by to read my story.

  2. Oh, and by the way… I have a lot of freckles… and I just ate blackberries last night… after reading your story I found myself rubbing various freckles, just to make sure they were still flat… honest, I did…

  3. Two tiny comments:

    “I picked off a raspberry, wiped it with my shirt, and put it in my mouth.” I can’t see someone wiping a raspberry on a shirt – they are pretty fragile, and would just make a big raspberry smear on the shirt.

    “I felt the bumps coursing down my throat and rubbing against my tongue.” The bumps would rub against the tongue first, then down the throat, right?

    These are very small things, but what they can do is take the reader out of the story (while they think, Hmm, a raspberry would make a big smear against a shirt…) – something you always want to avoid.

    Keep writing! I started at the same age you did.

    You may also want to check out my teenage friend Steph Bowe’s blog – she wrote a novel and sold it when she was 15 – she’s very cool and very inspirational: http://www.stephbowe.com

    • Thank you for the constructive criticism. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I will be sure to fix that later. Thank you for reading my story!

  4. Hello Rebecca: I might say ditto to what you have heard … ditto.

    First of all, thank you for having the presence to tell your story on Christi’s blog. Christi, thanks for such an inspirational idea.

    Second, like Grey, I began as an oral story-teller. Our ability to tell a good story is dependent on so many factors, some fascinating and captivating, others, quite frankly, are boring rote and miserable chores.

    You tell the story, present the character or cast of characters, the situation, the spin, the eventual ending. Then it’s time to clean up spelling, grammar, word usage. Yuck. This is editing, revising, rewriting and more editing. This is not my favorite part of story telling.

    Third, the backbone of story telling is reading. Read, read and read some more. Find stories for your age and beyond your age. I would not tell someone to ignore adult advise, but when it comes to reading, listen to adults who do not try to suffocate your curiousity.

    My son is an avid reader and by the time he was your age he had read his way through my entire home library of over 300 books. I have always been a lover of the library, so we took frequent trips to the different types of libraries available in New York City, from the local branches to the special branches, from college libraries to the main library in Manhattan.

    Money was scarce during those years, but I still found enough to keep feeding his passion. My family also bought him books, people gave or lent him books. He is a dad of three and still reads at least one, and often as many as three books a week.

    Read over your head and keep a chub book and write down words you don’t know or words you find interesting or unusual. Then, using Grey’s advise, find other words for those words. Since I am a compulsive talker, I also keep a book of words I unintentionally use too much, so I can go back later when I am editing and get rid of them. READ STRUNK AND WHITE, The Elements of Style, the skiniest and best book on English usuage.

    Read every genre, give yourself a good solid base of classic literature, read mysteries and fantasy books for fun, read magazine articles and short story and poetry collections.

    In every good writer, there is an enthusiastic reader.

    Last, I loved the short story and was actually distressed that the poor girl ended by eating herself … there is a worm like catepillar who eats itslef slowly in the cocoon in order to get food to grow into a butterfly. Your story had pathos and humor, a bit of family lore and even a moral lesson … don’t be a piggy … like the kid in Wonka. Oh yes, please read that book.

    I must conclude my long-winded rant (as I am famous for my bigger than life mouth) by telling you, the story about you was the one that grabbed my insides. The kid who has moved so many times (I can relate to some of that since I went to six grade schools) … the kid who is always the “new” kid, the one who sits in the corner of the lunchroom or off on the playing field. Living in uncertainty when your father is in harm’s way, knowing a mom who is at once a single mother, and wife.

    I bet you didn’t know you communicted so much with your bio or maybe you did know. Either way, you have a great gift and opportunity to use that gift to entertain, please and intrigue, frighten or fool your readers. Have fun with it, but never forget it is a gift and you must take good care of it and work hard to perfect it. (see, I ended this with a preposition)

    Great good writing to you Rebecca 🙂

    • Ramblings,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Rebecca’s story and how you can relate to her about moving. I believe being an Army Brat has made her brave;she does not wear a uniform, but has wounds that only she knows of. She is a fiesty little thing with a love of writing. This opportunity that Christi gave her and the words of strangers will keep her on a successful path.

    • I am so glad that I have many people to help me stay on track as a successful writer. Thank you for the (longggggggggggggggg) comment. Thanks for taking a look at my writing.

  5. Hi, Rebecca! You have a great deal of talent for description. I saw those raspberries and could almost taste them! Outstanding work! Now, for a bit of constructive criticism, when writing in first person, try not to start so many sentences with “I.” This is something I’m guilty of doing myself. It’s trickier and requires more effort on our part as writers, but it also makes for a smoother read.
    But I can see your potential as a writer for sure. Just keep at it. Write whenever you can, every day. And read just as much. Read everything in your favorite genre. Take as many writing classes as you can. Writing is just like anything else, if you want to be good at it, it takes lots of practice and dedication. But it’s also worth it in every way. I’ve been writing stories since I was ten, and there is nothing so pleasing to me as creating characters and giving them a world to live in.
    I’d recommend following Mary Kole’s Kid Lit blog just for interesting insider tidbits on writing and kid literature. And don’t be afraid to let others read your work. Be tough. Be brave. And learn from every bit of feedback you get.

    Best of luck to you! *big hugs* 🙂

    • PK,
      Hello. Thank you, thank you, thank you…..for stopping by and posting on your blog about my daughter. She has been so excited for this to happen. Congratulations to Christi on the Blogger Oscar!!! She is truly deserving. I hope the praise and constructive criticism will allow her to grow into a budding author. Thanks again,
      A very proud mommy

  6. Hi Rebecca…I really love this story…it struck me as an allegory for being too self indulgent and lacking in discipline, and the trouble that comes from that. Everyone’s critique will no doubt help you, and taking constructive criticism, first from friends, then teachers, and later from agents and editors, is a huge lesson that every writer must learn, and sometimes re-learn. So by volunteering for this gig, you show yourself to be a fearless writer. That courage will serve you well for the rest of your life, and not just in writing.

    My advice, like that you received from PK Hrezo, is to keep going. As a writer, you will no doubt do so without us telling you to. I suppose what I mean to say is remember that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, even when it is hard, and even during those times when no one seems to want to buy your work. Keep at it, because one day, they will. And then we will all have books by Rebecca to read, and we will all be grateful for that.

    • Christy,
      Thank you for supporting Rebecca. I am going to take these words of wisdom from everyone, place them onto a board for her to remember this experience and to move forward in her writing.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Thank you for being one of the many people who will help me keep going. Thanks for checking out my story!

  7. LOVED IT!
    I was going to type out a couple of suggestions, but Sara beat me to it. So, take note of Sara’s comments, because those same things struck me.

    Make every sentence, every word, matter.

    Yes, reading is VERY important, but don’t read just fiction. Also, read books on the craft of writing. My favorite: THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass.

    You have an excellent start to an excellent path. Keep up the great work.

  8. Hi Rebecca,

    I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said. This is a wonderful short story and your use of words just blew me away. I started writing somewhere around twelve or so, and I can tell you, my vocabulary wasn’t this good. You’ve been given a talent that you should always follow. And how very brave of you to put yourself out there like this. Rock on baby!

    • T.C.,
      Rebecca has a better vocabulary than mine, I’m afraid. We are so very proud of her. Thanks for stopping by to cheer her on. 🙂

    • Thank for the compliments. Maybe if I end up posting another story you can beat other people to it. Anyways, thanks for taking time out of your day to make mine better.

  9. Rebecca,
    This is a great story! I laughed out loud at the part when she eats herself. Very creative! There is a lot of good advice in the comments above. I wish you the best of luck! You have a lot of potential. Never stop writing. 🙂

    • Yeah, I try to make all of my stories with voice and a little humor. Thanks for coming to Christi’s blog to read my story!

  10. You are very brave, Rebecca, to post your story and allow others to critique it. By doing this you are learning early on something that it takes many writers a long time to accept– all great stories are not just written they are rewritten. Hopefully, you will take the comments that have been given you and revise your story. It’s a wonderfully, fun story, I might add, and highly entertaining.

    I, too, was very impresses with the story about you! As someone who finds it difficult to write a bio, I must say you did an excellent job. I can so relate to what you said about finding it easier to write down your thoughts than to say them out loud.Whether written or spoken, I think the important thing is to express yourself with words. I’m not about to say that one day you will be a writer because you are already one. Stay with it, write as often you can, pay attention to constructive criticism, and one day you will be a published author. I’m sure of it! 🙂

    • Thanks for the advice. This may help me if I begin to run out of the fire to writing a story and run out of inspiration. Thank you for coming to Christi’s blog and reading my story.

  11. Bravo Rebecca! It takes guts to put yourself and your work out there. I have nothing to add with regards to critiquing your work other than what has already been said. You are quite the writer! Writing exercises are so beneficial along with reading, reading and more reading.

    I hope you never stop writing. Perhaps your “strange, random stories” as you describe them may find themselves a large readership as did The Twillight Zone series.

    Karen

    PS And I don’t like noise either when I write. :o)

    • Well, I am not so sure that my stories will get to be as popular as the Twilight Zone series, but judging how popular this one is on Christi’s blog, I have a chance that they will be SOME popular. Anyways, thank you for reading my story.

  12. Hello Rebecca!!

    As a Fourth Grade teacher, I must say I am so proud of you for willingly sharing your work. It takes a lot of courage. One thing I tell my students is “The one way to really improve your craft (of writing) is to ask for advice. So, kudos to you.

    After reading your piece, I must say I was thrilled to see all of your description. I felt like I was taking the adventure with you. There were certain parts that gave me a clear mental picture. For example, when you wrote “I felt the bumps coursing down my throat and rubbing against my tongue.” I loved that! One thing you might want to consider is switching those two sensory details. The raspberry would rub the tongue before going down the throat.

    Some writing tips: watch out for overusing the word that. Read the sentence without the word that and see if it still works. I had a problem with that early on and wish someone would have told me about it.

    Also, keep writing for the love of writing! You are very talented. Join teen writing groups like NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program. Just google it! They give great
    writing prompts and lead sentence. Plus, it’s a great way to find writing buddies!

    Thanks for sharing! You can be a guest blogger on my blog ANYTIME!

  13. My only wish was for the story to open up and give me more. So it’s good when your readers want more!

    For example, ‘My freckles disappeared and turned into raspberry bumps. Then my craving grew even more intense.’

    These two sentences hold a lot of promise for an entire scene. Which I would love to read. And I love the twisty ending!

    Thanks for sharing your story with us today – best and wonderful wishes for many more stories in your future.

  14. Thank you! I am glad that there are actually SOME people that care about my work! I never thought that people would even care enough to even LOOK at my work, let alone comment on it! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Good job, you hooked me after about the third sentence, and that’s about the length of time a person has to hook a reader. To be clear, you didn’t hook me because you’re 11, you plain hooked me on your writing. So keep the faith and keep going forward. Jim Nelson

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