Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gems of Writerly Wisdom, Richard Peck-Style

Found this gem from one of my favorite authors. Thought I'd pass it along:

"I write from beginning to end, as if I'm reading the book, not writing it. I revise endlessly, rewriting each page at least six times. To show me how to shape my story, I keep other people's books on my desk to dip into when I'm growing lost in my own story--new books by my colleagues in the young-adult field and of course, always, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Writing is too hard to do alone; you need all the help other writers can give you.

"When I finish the book, I take the first chapter and, without rereading it, throw it away. Then I write the first chapter last, now that I know how the story ends. It means I write the first chapter with confidence because the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise." --Richard Peck, "A Conversation with Richard Peck," in his book Fair Weather, Puffin Books edition, 2001.

I especially like "the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise." Wow. Any thoughts? Has Mr. Peck, Newbery Award-winning author, inspired you, too?



  1. Wow is right! I need to ponder this. Great stuff, thanks, Kenda! :)

  2. What a great tip for the first chapter. Am I brave enough for that??

  3. Thanks for sharing these quotes. I saw Richard Peck speak at a SCBWI Conference and it was great. THE GHOST BELONGED TO ME is one of my favorite books.

  4. Karen--Glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by :-)

    Rebecca--Throw out the first chapter? It is a scary idea, isn't it?

    And Karen S--I'd love to hear Richard Peck speak sometime, what a neat opportunity that must have been. And thanks for bringing The Ghost Belonged To Me to my attention. With your recommendation, I'm putting it at the top of my list of books to read! I know I really liked "Fair Weather"...

  5. I have read some of Peck's books and enjoyed them.

    I do many of the same things he does (now THAT makes me pause). That thing about throwing away the first chapter - don't know if I could ever do that. As Rebecca Kiel says, that takes some real courage. My first chapter holds the nugget of the story I started with, so to replace it entirely is hard. But maybe that's what needs to happen. It's something to really think about - A LOT.

    1. Peggy--I'm with you. Replacing the first chapter IS something to think about. But with the insight we have by the end of the first draft--added layers, depth, characterizations--the idea carries a lot of wisdom. And again there's the "the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise." For sure, I'm going to read future books with that in mind, and study how it's done!

  6. It's a scary thought to throw the first chapter away. But he's right about the confidence you have once you know where the story goes. Something to think about--thanks!


  7. I love the idea that the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise. Its a good idea. I too will try it. Thanks, Kenda.

  8. I once heard Jerry Spinelli speak and say almost the same thing--except that he threw away the whole manuscript! I think it's true that I can write a MUCH better first chapter after I've muddled my way through the entire book--I know where I'm going, have the voice down, and have a better grasp on theme. Maybe that applies to the entire manuscript, but man!, I'm not brave enough to do that :)